Xing Lida, a Chinese paleontologist found the specimen Dinosaur tail, the size of a dried apricot, at an amber market in northern Myanmar near the Chinese border.
The remarkable piece was destined to end up as a curiosity or piece of jewelry, with Burmese traders believing a plant fragment was trapped inside.
“I realized that the content was a vertebrate, probably theropod, rather than any plant,” Xing told CNN.
“I was not sure that the trader really understood how important this specimen was, but he did not raise the price.”
‘Once in a lifetime find’
The findings, which shed fresh light on how dinosaurs looked, are published in the December issue of Current Biology.
Ryan McKellar, a paleontologist at the Royal Saskatchwan Museum in Canada and co-author of the paper, says he was blown away when Xing first showed him the piece of amber.
“It’s a once in a lifetime find. The finest details are visible and in three dimensions.”
Fragments of dinosaur-era bird wings have been found preserved in amber before but this is the first time part of a mummified dinosaur skeleton has been discovered, McKellar said.
The tail section belongs to a young coelurosaurian — from the same group of dinosaurs as the predatory velociraptors and the tyrannosaurus.
The sparrow-sized creature could have danced in the palm of your hand.
The amber, which weighs 6.5 grams, contains bone fragments and feathers, adding to mounting fossil evidence that many dinosaurs sported primitive plumage rather than scales.
Feathered friends: Dinosaur discoveries