Wild Things: Feathered dinosaurs, king crabs and spotted hyenas

Traveling snails, brainwashed rats and more updates from the world of wildlife

(Craig R. Smith)

Feathered Find

11 feathers preserved in amber
(Ryan McKellar)
Most of what we know about dinosaurs comes from their fossils. But a University of Alberta research team recently found a different kind of evidence: 11 feathers preserved in amber. The feathers were encased in tree resin about 80 million years ago. The amber pieces were collected from a deposit in Alberta, most in the mid-1990s, and stored in the Royal Tyrrell Museum until grad student Ryan McKellar recently analyzed them. Many dinosaurs, including the ancestors of modern birds, were feathered. It’s not clear which species left these, but some closely resemble fossilized impressions of dinosaur feathers. They range in color from pale to dark brown, and some appear specialized for flying or underwater diving. But they don’t preserve DNA suitable for cloning.

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