Geekery: Feathered Dinosaur Tail Found


Jurassic Park lied to you.

The piece of mid-Cretaceous amber was found in Myanmar, and examined by paleontologist Lida Xing of the China University of Geosciences with a team partially funded by the National Geographic Society. The amber from Hukawng Valley – where this piece is from – holds the largest array of Cretaceous period animals and plant life. A lot of it ends up in jewelry.


The piece is the size of a dried apricot, and houses a 1.4 inch tail covered in feathers. There are 8 vertebrae that were likely part of a long, thin tail.


The researchers believe that the creature was part of the coelurosaur family, which includes Tyrannosauroids and modern day birds. Due to the amount of feathers on the tail they don’t think the creature was capable of flight, and that the feathers were likely used for temperature regulation or some sort of signaling action.

Check out the full article from National Geographic for a more in depth look.

  • Moonsaves

    Jurassic Park never lied. From the very first film they said they had to “fill in the blanks” with DNA from other animals.

    • Sam Nolton

      And in Jurassic World, Dr. Wu straight up tells the boss that they AREN’T technically “dinosaurs” – that his geneticists crafted them to be more what the audience/park customers expect.

      • Emprah

        To be honest real life velociprators would be way more underwhelming than the movie ones. Clawed big chickens the size of a german shepard.

        • Sam Nolton

          Very true, though you COULD make them scary at that size- swarms of little prehistoric piranha birds.

        • MechBattler

          The movies use the name Velociraptor, but the animal they’re based on is actually the much larger cousin, Utah Raptor.

          They liked the name, but knew the animal was small. Luckily, the Utahraptor was kicking around so they used it and gave it the other name.
          Misnamed they may be, but 1,000 pound raptors were VERY real. And VERY scary. YIKES.

      • Level1NPC

        Yeah, “Chimera Park” and “Build-a-Genetic Horror Workshop” don’t quite have the same mass appeal.

      • af

        If I remember correctly, Dr. Wu is being disingenuous ( 😛 ) because audiences at the time of the first Jurassic Park were still mostly used to the image of cold-blooded lizards standing upright like classic Godzilla, and in fact Jurassic Park helped popularize a more modern conception of Theropods like the T-Rex and the Velociraptor as fast, agile predators which didn’t stand upright but instead used their tails for balance. It’s just that they missed the mark with the feathers; not sure if the knowledge about dinosaur feathers was mainstream enough at the time. In between movies it did become more well-known, which is why there is a nod to it with later movie raptors, which have a few feathers here and there (of course, according to current knowledge, real velociraptors were covered in colorful feathers to the point they would look like weird birds to a time-traveler).

        • Valeli

          I’m sure the feather knowledge wasn’t mainstream at the time. I certainly didn’t know about it, at least. Neither did anyone I knew.

          That said, even now that I do know, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to replace the old mental image of dinosaurs that I grew up with.

          Having them feathered is just way too different. Sounds like something for the next generation to embrace.

      • ZeeLobby

        Yeah. As the other guy said, they were technically modeled after Utah Raptors, which were still smaller I think, but def no joke.

        • Muninwing

          Utahraptors were often taller than fully-grown humans… so too big for the JP Velociraptors…

    • Muninwing

      well, it did lie retroactively. they’ve found that the half-life of DNA is too short to use amber-preserved samples to re-breed them. they just didn’t know that until after the movie was released.

  • Arthfael

    Anyone read the book. As a biologist, some bits did make me cringe, but it was better than I expected. And they did stress out that these are not true dinosaurs.

    • I did. The movie is one of the few adaptions though that, overall, I found improved upon the novel it was based on. May be the Hammond effect: Turning him from a giant backside into a likeable old grandfather figure and outsourcing his greed to other characters.

      But yes, the book handled what it told its audience pretty well and still holds up to this day. No question about that.

      • ZeeLobby

        Totally agree

    • Muninwing

      Crichton is actually well-known for just making stuff up if it helps his stories. he’s not above doing the research, nor is he completely off-the-wall with a lot of claims, but he does make stuff up.

      case in point: Bateson’s Belfry.

      the idea that Victorians were so terrified of being buried alive that they had bells somehow configured in their caskets (invented by a man named George Bateson) is 100% made up by Crichton., in a fictional citation of a made-up person’s biography. that he held a doctorate (medical) and made the claim meant that historians have actually quoted him, and the source he invented, and some historians have quoted those historians. but there exists no evidence of Bateson nor of the existence of said Belfries.

      and the turn of speech has existed for hundreds of years before that, so that’s not where the phrase comes from despite many claims to the contrary.

      Crichton was a great novelist. and he did some great work with including some science into his books. but he was a writer first, and the story was more important than the veracity in many cases.

      • Arthfael

        The whole “chaos theory” thing in the movie was really annoying. It just does not work like this. It was cleverer in the book, though not completely faultless.

  • Haakon, go away. Go far away and never come back. Stop being a dreamcrusher. This isn’t fun. Not at all.

    • Tshiva keln

      Haakon’s articles are usually the best reads so don’t send him far away you meanie! Both the book and film say dinos are more alike to birds than lizards but like some people said above, I think I will always picture them in the traditional lizard image.

      • Muninwing

        The Land Before Time was a lie.

        one of the biggest issues? the era of the dinosaurs was huge.

        there is less time between the existence of humans and the T-Rex (about 60 million years) than there is between the T-Rex and the Stegosaurus (closer to 80 milion)

        at that level, the scale of time is pretty mindbending. no wonder there are a lot of “simple folk” who refuse to acknowledge that the earth is more than a few thousands years old…