Friday, December 9, 2016

We can call her Chestnut!

So on the upside, this. No time to click? You know what, that's fine. This one's on me, I'll explain and I won't even sass you about it, because this is like, super-exciting news. Ready? Ok, here goes: scientists in China have found a tiny dinosaur tail in a hunk of amber.
Ta-da! ...what? That's not super-exciting?
Only mildly interesting at best? Wow, tough crowd...
The Burmese street vendor of course,
will spend the rest of his life toiling
in complete anonymity. Thanks, Lida...
Ok fine, it's not a unified field theory or aliens, but as science news goes, it's a kind of big deal. Besides, in these increasingly depressing times when the climate's spinning out of control and our next President is a game show host most of us didn't vote for, you've got to take it where you can get it. Anyway, a paleontologist named Lida Xing was checking out the crusty ancient tree crud market in Myanmar when he stumbled upon this unassuming lump which the seller said contained a bit of prehistoric plant. Lida recognized the science within, bought it, and has now rocked the world of dinosaur bits found in amber research.

For dinosaurs, evolution has been a 
bit of a disappointing trajectory.
The tail is from a baby coelurosaur who, 99 million years ago became stuck in some tree sap and died a slow, gruesome death. Bad for the coelurosaur but kind of great for paleontologists who now have a well preserved hunk of dinosaur soft tissue to examine. What's especially interesting about the find, at least according to scientists who, let's face it, spend a decent chunk of their time telling us why these things are fascinating, is that the tail has feathers. Yes feathers, because the one part of Jurassic Park that wasn't bunk was the part where that kid tells us that dinosaurs evolved into birds.

But the thing that I, as a non-scientist, find the most exciting is that the tail also gives some insight into what color this thing was. Chestnut brown with a white underbelly. Which, adorable right? Fuzzy, brown and white and had it lived would have got to be about the size of an ostrich. Throw in some large, darting eyes it uses to spot prey and you've got the next Vietnamese pot-belly pig. Someone should clone these things immediately.
Yeah, they start out cute but then the disemboweling begins... 

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