Dinosaurs Among Us: Amber as Crystal Ball

Maybe Quetzalcoatl, Aztecs’ feathered serpent, or St. George’s dragon were less mythological creatures than thought until today. Perhaps, as long suspected by linguists and historians, some of the oldest myths known to us have basically been relaying stories from the night of times about strange animals that were already extinct by the time mankind’s ancestors began talking about them.

In any case, the scientific world is thrilled with the discovery of an amber piece in the Hukawng Valley, in Myanmar. A team of scientists found the tips of two dinosaur wings trapped in the fossilized resin. For the first time ever, we can see the real colors and shapes of dinosaurs feathers. The amber had already been polished and shaped for jewelry use until the scientists, quite simply, bought it.

The Hukawng Valley mines is known as a rich reservoir of the Cretaceous period, with samples preserved in the amber, as these scientists knew. Yet little they suspected that this particular piece of amber would quite literally become a crystal ball into the prehistory. The study of the entombed wings indicated they most probably belonged to juvenile enantiornithes, a group of avian dinosaurs that became extinct at the end of the Cretaceous period.

Not only did this proof come to confirm the saurian ancestry of birds. It may also hint that the images we grew up with about dinosaurs—those gigantic reptiles with sharp fangs and coarse skins—may have been inaccurate. A revised remake of Jurassic Park, and our imagination, is in due order.

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