Report

A Diverse Assemblage of Late Cretaceous Dinosaur and Bird Feathers from Canadian Amber

Science  16 Sep 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6049, pp. 1619-1622
DOI: 10.1126/science.1203344

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Abstract

The fossil record of early feathers has relied on carbonized compressions that lack fine structural detail. Specimens in amber are preserved in greater detail, but they are rare. Late Cretaceous coal-rich strata from western Canada provide the richest and most diverse Mesozoic feather assemblage yet reported from amber. The fossils include primitive structures closely matching the protofeathers of nonavian dinosaurs, offering new insights into their structure and function. Additional derived morphologies confirm that plumage specialized for flight and underwater diving had evolved in Late Cretaceous birds. Because amber preserves feather structure and pigmentation in unmatched detail, these fossils provide novel insights regarding feather evolution.

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