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Ancient Feathered Friends: Images of Feathers in Amber

When alive, Beipiaosaurus would have sported shorter feathers on its entire body with tufts of long, broad feathers on its head, tail and trunk.
(Image: © Reconstruction by Zhao Chuang and Xing Lida.)

Web-Entangled feather

dinosaur, feathers, birds, bird evolution, amber preserved,

(Image credit: Science/AAAS)

An isolated piece of feather, trapped within a tangled mass of spider’s web in Late Cretaceous Canadian amber. The feather branches may have been gray or black.

Simple Protofeathers

dinosaur, feathers, birds, bird evolution, amber preserved,

(Image credit: Science/AAAS)

Numerous individual filaments in Late Cretaceous Canadian amber. These filaments are similar to the protofeathers that have been found as fossils with some dinosaurs. These filaments range from clear to near-black.

Coiled For Diving

dinosaur, feathers, birds, bird evolution, amber preserved,

(Image credit: Science/AAAS)

A feather accompanied by a microphysid plant bug. The coiling observed in the feather is directly comparable to coils found in modern bird feathers specialized for water uptake and are suggestive of diving behavior, but similar structures can be used to transport water to the nest.

Brown Feathers

dinosaur, feathers, birds, bird evolution, amber preserved,

(Image credit: Science/AAAS)

Pigmentation in these feathers gives it a beaded appearance. Pigment in the feather suggests it would have been medium- or dark-brown in color.

Curly Coils

dinosaur, feathers, birds, bird evolution, amber preserved,

(Image credit: Science/AAAS)

The cork-screw shaped structures in the image are the tightly coiled bases of feather barbules.

Modern Equivalent

dinosaur, feathers, birds, bird evolution, amber preserved,

(Image credit: Science/AAAS )

An isolated barb from a white belly feather of a modern grebe (Aechmophorus occidentalis), illustrating coiled barbule bases comparable to those in the Cretaceous specimen. In both cases, the coiling is a structural adaptation that allows the feather to absorb water.

Color-Producing Cells

dinosaur, feathers, birds, bird evolution, amber preserved,

(Image credit: Science/AAAS )

A feather barb that shows some indication of original coloration. The oblong brown masses within the image are regions of color within the barbules. In this specimen, the overall feather color appears to have been medium- or dark-brown.

A clear example

dinosaur, feathers, birds, bird evolution, amber preserved,

(Image credit: Science/AAAS )

An isolated, unpigmented feather barb and a mite preserved in Canadian Late Cretaceous amber.

Simple Pigments

dinosaur, feathers, birds, bird evolution, amber preserved,

(Image credit: Science/AAAS )

Overview of 6 pigmented feather barbs.

Pigmented Feathers

dinosaur, feathers, birds, bird evolution, amber preserved,

(Image credit: Science/AAAS )

Overview of 16 clumped feather barbs