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      Mummified precocial bird wings in mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber

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          Abstract

          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.

          Abstract

          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

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                Author and article information

                Affiliations
                [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.

                Journal
                Nat Commun
                Nat Commun
                Nature Communications
                Nature Publishing Group
                2041-1723
                28 June 2016
                2016
                : 7
                ncomms12089
                10.1038/ncomms12089
                4931330
                27352215
                Copyright © 2016, Nature Publishing Group, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited. All Rights Reserved.

                This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in the credit line; if the material is not included under the Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission from the license holder to reproduce the material. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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