Paleontologist Lida Xing found the feathered tail of a tiny dinosaur trapped in a piece of amber for sale at a market in Myanmar.
As soon as Xing saw it, he knew it wasn’t a plant. It was the delicate, feathered tail of a tiny dinosaur.
“I have studied paleontology for more than 10 years and have been interested in dinosaurs for more than 30 years. But I never expected we could find a dinosaur in amber. This may be the coolest find in my life,” says Xing, a paleontologist at China University of Geosciences in Beijing. “The feathers on the tail are so dense and regular, this is really wonderful.”
There’s a new king of the dinosaurs: Dreadnoughtus schrani. A skeleton of the species was unearthed in Argentina in 2005 and the results of the recently released analysis show this Dreadnoughtus was 85 feet long, weighed around 65 tons, and had a powerful “weaponized tail”. The kicker? It was not yet an adult and still growing when it died.
While other giants from Patagonia are known from a handful of bones, almost half of the Dreadnoughtus skeleton has been recovered. What’s more, the fossilised bones are in such good condition — even revealing where muscles attached — that the skeleton could provide unprecedented insights into the biology, movement and evolution of the group of huge plant-eating dinosaurs it belonged to, called the titanosaurian sauropods.
By comparison, an Apatosaurus (née Brontosaurus) is ~75 feet long and weighed 22 tons while a Boeing 737-900 weights around 50 tons. Here’s some more background on the Dreadnoughtus and a video showing some of the fossils:
An Elvis taxon is the apparent rediscovery of an animal that has vanished from the fossil record, but that is really the discovery of a look-alike animal. “The term Elvis taxon is used because of the large number of sightings of Elvis Presley long after his death, as well as for his many impersonators.”
According to paleontologist Gareth Dyke, “fossil evidence that [predatory] dinosaurs were feathered is now ‘irrefutable’”. Digitally remastered Jurassic Park can’t be too far down the road.