Dinosaur Feathers Discovered in Canadian Amber
Today a group of paleontologists announced the results of an extensive study of several well-preserved dinosaur feathers encased in amber. Their work, which included samples from many stages in the evolution of feathers, bolstered the findings of other scientists who've suggested that dinosaurs (winged and otherwise) had multicolored and transparent feathers of the sort you might see on birds today. The researchers also presented evidence, based on the feathers' pigmentation and structures, that today's bird feathers could have evolved from dinosaur feathers.
We've got a gallery of these intriguing feathers preserved in amber.
In a profile of lead researcher Ryan McKellar, The Atlantic's Hans Villarica writes:
These specimens represent distinct stages of feather evolution, from early-stage, single filament protofeathers to much more complex structures associated with modern diving birds... They can't determine which feathers belonged to birds or dinosaurs yet, but they did observe filament structures that are similar to those seen in other non-avian dinosaur fossils.
Villarica also did io9 readers a favor and asked McKellar whether this discovery could lead to a Jurassic Park scenario. McKellar said:
Put simply, no. The specimens that we examined are extremely small and would not be expected to contain any DNA material. To put this into context, the only genetic material that has been recovered from amber is from lumps of mummified insect muscle tissue in much younger Dominican amber that are approximately 17 million years old and well after the age of dinosaurs.
So much for our dreams of dino domination.