The remains of a bird preserved in amber for 99 million years have been discovered by a group of researchers, one of which is associated with the Department of Invertebrate Paleontology at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum.
A piece of the bird’s paw, nicknamed Belone, was discovered in Myanmar in fossil resin.
The curator of the Royal Saskatchewan Museum’s invertebrate paleontology department, Ryan McKellar, says that more complete specimens have been found, but never as well preserved as this paw.
Insects and mites are even visible in the piece of amber.
The researchers determined that the bird had only a few weeks at the most before finding its way.
A miner who removed the specimen from an amber commercial mine in 2014 thought it was a lizard paw. However, the director of the Hupoge Amber Museum, Huang Chen, who subsequently acquired it, was sure to have found the foot of a small bird.
It was in this way that the specimen surnamed Belone found itself in the hands of the palaeontologist Lida Xing and his team of the Geoscience University of China.
Using a CT scan, they discovered hidden structures that allowed them to see the skeleton and even the vertebrae of the bird. Using this image, and without destroying the original sample, they were able to create a 3D model of the entire bird.
Ryan McKellar explains that Belone is part of the enantiornith family, a species that is very present in the Mesozoic era.