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Scientist Finds Feathered Dinosaur Tail Trapped in Amber, Ruining All Jurassic Park Movies in the Best Way

Life, uh, finds a way to ruin everything.


Scientists have already established that dinosaurs had feathers—and had set about trying to ruin our favorite movie monsters with other retcons like “lips”—but actually seeing a preserved, feathered dinosaur tail from millions of years ago with our own eyes is an amazing landmark on its own. (See for yourself in the published work in Current Biology! You are literally looking at a dinosaur!)

As much as I like to joke that this ruins Jurassic Park—and it doesn’t, because those dinosaurs were canonically genetically altered anyway, so there—we’ve spent a long time guessing at what dinosaurs really looked like beyond their bones, and now we actually know … kind of. The preserved tail is tiny and sits within a bit of amber found in a market in Myanmar. Chinese paleontologist Xing Lida noticed the specimen, telling CNN, “I realized that the content was a vertebrate, probably theropod, rather than any plant.”

The feathers, on a tail segment from a dinosaur in the Coelurosauria clade (which includes Velociraptor and Tyrannosaurus), are purely ornamental, according to analysis of their structure. Their color, while not apparent from pictures of the specimen, was also preserved, and scientists have determined that the bird-sized dinosaur the tail belonged to was brown and white—far from a lizard-like monster. More like a six-foot turkey!

Unfortunately, the find left another aspect of Jurassic Park debunked: While soft tissue and blood was contained within the specimen, it offered no genetic material to use for our entertainment-based dinosaur cloning schemes.

(via National Geographic, image via Universal Pictures)

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Dan Van Winkle (he) is an editor and manager who has been working in digital media since 2013, first at now-defunct Geekosystem (RIP), and then at The Mary Sue starting in 2014, specializing in gaming, science, and technology. Outside of his professional experience, he has been active in video game modding and development as a hobby for many years. He lives in North Carolina with Lisa Brown (his wife) and Liz Lemon (their dog), both of whom are the best, and you will regret challenging him at Smash Bros.