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A bird found in amber from the mid-Cretaceous period is approximately 100-million-years-old – and and is among the best specimens ever discovered, according to a new study.

The hatchling was probably trapped in a resin flow – and the part that was exposed was partially eaten, the Chinese and Canadian team reports in the journal Gondwana Research.

“Overall, the new specimen brings a new level of detail to our understanding of the anatomy of the juvenile stages of the most species-rich clade of pre-modern birds,” they write. “The new amber specimen yields the most complete view of hatchling plumage and integument yet to be recovered from the Cretaceous, including details of pterylosis, feather microstructure, and pigmentation patterns.”

The bird weighs just under 80 grams, and has dimensions in millimeters: 86 by 30 by 57.

It was an enantiornthine, a wide and diverse extinct group that resembled modern birds in many ways, but still preserved teeth in its beak and claws on its wings.

The Burmese amber in which it was found is known among the best Cretaceous deposits, according to the study. The pieces from the Southeast Asian country are typically large and clear and solid, and the country’s sources have been extensively mined. Insects and plants trapped in the amber have been extensively studied from pieces dug up in northern Myanmar over the last 20 years.

The new bird discovery is among the best-preserved samples of its kind from the Cretaceous, they conclude.

“Ultimately, preservation in amber provides a clear view of feathers that have been difficult to interpret in compression fossils,” they write. “Such clarity provides insight into which structures are taphonomic in origin, and which unusual feather morphotypes may better inform our understanding of feather evolution.”

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