Feathered dinosaur tail inside amber

I think this 99 million years old amber is pretty. Hey @beaglelady take a look here.

I really like this particular picture.


I guess they have to update their illustrations over at the Ark Encounter to account for this finding. I can already hear it coming, “People coexisted with feathered dinosaurs because there are birds in the Bible!”


Beautiful pictures. It is interesting to consider that feathers developed for purposes totally unrelated to flight ( temp regulation, protection, display?) and later adapted to be useful for flight.


@Joel_Duff just published a great post about this topic over at his blog:

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That’s actually my big question. If feathers are primarily for flight, why did they first develop on non-flying animals? @DennisVenema @Gordonbioprof @sbodbyl @Joel_Duff any help? (I fully admit I am not well-read on flight evolution, despite having materials at my fingertips to do so)

Also, we’re working on a BioLogos post related to this story, to go up next week.

Flight feathers are late in the game - the first feathers are not flight feathers. Flight feathers were exapted from non-flight feathers. The first functions might have been temperature regulation, or display, etc.


@DennisVenema Wow, that’s really interesting, given that feathers are primarily associated with flying in living creatures today. Fascinating.

Thanks for the reply.

Well, yes and no - modern birds have non-flight feathers as well - down used for insulation, for example. But I get what you mean.

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Then we have the ostriches and emus, and the penquins. I tend to forget that penquins are birds, even though their swimming is beautiful underwater flight, as seen at Sea World.

Yep, though they are the modified descendants of flying birds. Penguin feathers have adaptations for their underwater habits, to be sure. :slight_smile:

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Ken Ham has responded “At this time, we see no reason to consider this anything but a bird.” No surprise but it is interesting that they fear admitting that dinosaurs may have had feathers when the Bible doesn’t require him to believe that they didn’t. I suppose it is because they are having more and more trouble figuring out what the “dramatic differences” they claim distinguish birds and reptiles are.

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It has vertebrae, preserved inside the tail. The feathers on the tail are not flight feathers. No modern bird has this arrangement - even Ken should be able to see that…


Oh, he thinks that isn’t a problem: “What’s the big deal this time? It’s the supposed lack of fusion in the sample’s vertebrae. Supposedly this proves that it’s a feathered dinosaur, not a bird. Keep in mind that the sample is only about 1.5 inches long (3.5 cm) and contains only 8 vertebrae, but most importantly it is from the mid-tail, not the end where we expect to see fusion.”

I’m guessing the feathers of emus, cassowaries, and kiwis are similar to ancient non-flight feathers. Is that right?

I believe that these birds lost the power of flight at some time in their evolutionary history.

The feather type that makes flight possible is the asymmetrical contour feather. Other kinds of feathers include semiplume, down, filoplume, and bristle.


Oh right! I never really paid attention to feathers, so now I just realize that birds have different types of feathers on their bodies which should have been obvious to me.

If I’m not mistaken, the main type of feathers on kiwis, emus, and cassowaries are bristle feathers. I suppose some dinosaurs had that as well.

Of course the feathers inside this amber are not bristle feathers, but I speculate that the first dinosaurs to sport feathers had something like bristle feathers, but I don’t know if my idea is correct.

To whom it may concern.

A while back there was an article in Scientific American which described how dinosaurs became birds. At the time I wrote an essay for this blog which referred to that article and another older article.

I found the older article on the Scientific American website under the title “how Dinosaurs Shrank and Became Birds,” from Quanta Magazine , June 2015.

I should be noted that birds developed originally at a time when climate became colder, so some dinosaurs developed feathers and became smaller to protect against the colder weather. Others became bigger to also protect against the cold, but this trend worked against them in the longer run.

Here’s AIG’s write-up. Thoughts?

I always love the cherry-picking of mainstream science to support their hack-job contentions. But of course they reject the context of the data they are cherry-picking and don’t seem to be bothered by logical leaps that seem to go something like. “We’ve found birds trapped in amber therefore another thing trapped in the same kind of amber must also be a bird.” Really. I don’t see how anyone reading this thinks it counts as “support,” but I guess it makes sense to them . “Here’s a 99 million year old bird to compare to this 99 million year old dinosaur to prove it’s a bird. Of course they don’t have the same vertebrae structure and neither is really 99 million years old, probably only a couple thousand years old, but abra-cadabre wa-la, this dinosaur is obviously a bird.” (Brain explodes.)