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      Mummified precocial bird wings in mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber

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          Our knowledge of Cretaceous plumage is limited by the fossil record itself: compression fossils surrounding skeletons lack the finest morphological details and seldom preserve visible traces of colour, while discoveries in amber have been disassociated from their source animals. Here we report the osteology, plumage and pterylosis of two exceptionally preserved theropod wings from Burmese amber, with vestiges of soft tissues. The extremely small size and osteological development of the wings, combined with their digit proportions, strongly suggests that the remains represent precocial hatchlings of enantiornithine birds. These specimens demonstrate that the plumage types associated with modern birds were present within single individuals of Enantiornithes by the Cenomanian (99 million years ago), providing insights into plumage arrangement and microstructure alongside immature skeletal remains. This finding brings new detail to our understanding of infrequently preserved juveniles, including the first concrete examples of follicles, feather tracts and apteria in Cretaceous avialans.


          The plumage of Cretaceous birds has previously been described only from compression fossils and isolated feathers in amber. Here, Xing et al. describe two 99 million year old bird wings found preserved in amber, enabling new insight into the evolution of feather arrangement, pigmentation, and structure.

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          Most cited references 31

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          Age constraint on Burmese amber based on U–Pb dating of zircons

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            Fossiliferous Cretaceous Amber from Myanmar (Burma): Its Rediscovery, Biotic Diversity, and Paleontological Significance

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              Geology of an amber locality in the Hukawng Valley, Northern Myanmar


                Author and article information

                [1 ]State Key Laboratory of Biogeology and Environmental Geology, China University of Geosciences , Beijing 100083, China
                [2 ]School of the Earth Sciences and Resources, China University of Geosciences , Beijing 100083, China
                [3 ]Palaeontology, Royal Saskatchewan Museum , Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada S4P 2V7
                [4 ]Biology Department, University of Regina , Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada S4S 0A2
                [5 ]Key Laboratory of Vertebrate Evolution and Human Origins, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences , Beijing 100044, China
                [6 ]Key Laboratory of Zoological Systematics and Evolution, Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences , Beijing 100101, China
                [7 ]School of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol , Bristol BS8 1RJ, UK
                [8 ]Institute of Geology and Paleontology, Linyi University , Linyi 276000, China
                [9 ]Department of Exercise and Health Science, University of Taipei , Taipei 11153, China
                [10 ]Dinosaur Tracks Museum, University of Colorado Denver , Denver, Colorado 80217, USA
                [11 ]Institute of High Energy Physics, Chinese Academy of Science , Beijing 100049, China
                [12 ]P.O. Box 4680, Chongqing 400015, China
                Author notes

                These authors contributed equally to this work.

                Nat Commun
                Nat Commun
                Nature Communications
                Nature Publishing Group
                28 June 2016
                : 7
                Copyright © 2016, Nature Publishing Group, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited. All Rights Reserved.

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