Scientists Discover Dinosaur-age Soft Tissues

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HMNS unveils prehistoric lizards in Amber Secrets collection

Lizards in Amber

Scientists have unearthed several pieces of 99-million-year-old amber that contain some of the best-preserved prehistoric lizards ever found.

The news is out. The Houston Museum of Natural Science is involved in the next great discovery in the world of paleontology. In the forests of Myanmar, scientists have unearthed several pieces of 99-million-year-old amber that contain some of the best-preserved prehistoric lizards ever found. These little creatures walked alongside Tyrannosaurus rex, but encased in fossilized tree resin, they seem perhaps days old. The skin and soft tissues, the color of their scales and even their tongues have all survived millions of years of geologic time. See video here.

HMNS recently unveiled these specimens as part of our newest exhibit, Amber Secrets: Feathers from the Age of Dinosaurs. This announcement follows a social media buzz created by a paper published in Science Advances, written by Dr. Juan D. Daza of Sam Houston State University and co-authored by Dr. David Grimaldi of the American Museum of Natural History, curator of the Amber Secrets exhibit. The paper outlines the significance of this incredible discovery, crucial to a deeper understanding of the ecosystems of the mid-Cretaceous.

Unlike most fossils important to paleontology that amount to little more than mineralized skeletons, these lizard specimens, measuring a half-inch to almost two and a half inches, offer tissue samples allowing scientists to get an intimate look at these extinct reptiles down to the cellular level. Using CT scanners and 3D printers, paleontologists can zoom in and reconstruct these specimens in high detail, creating fully articulated copies of these ancient animals for research.

The favorite of the collection is an ancestor of the modern chameleon. A curling tail and features of its skull suggest it may have fed and moved similarly, but were it preserved in rock, these details would have been lost. Through the golden lens of amber, this lizard, like the others, looks out at us from across the expanse of time.

So don’t just read about them online; come meet these time-travelers for yourself, and learn the secrets they have to tell in Amber Secrets: Feathers from the Age of Dinosaurs, open now through March 26, 2017.

About Amber Secrets:
Peer inside more than 100 gorgeous specimens and discover for yourself the contemporary breakthroughs that have paleontologists re-thinking the history of life on Earth. Assembled by Dr. David Grimaldi, Curator of Invertebrate Zoology at the American Museum of Natural History, the exhibit emphasizes the beauty of these fascinating fossils and place them into scientific context. Inside these golden tombs is evidence that feathered creatures existed in the fossil record much earlier than imagined — as far back as 99 million years ago!

For tickets or more information on Amber Secrets, visit http://www.hmns.org or call (713) 639-4629.

The Houston Museum of Natural Science—one of the nation’s most heavily attended museums—is a centerpiece of the Houston Museum District. With four floors of permanent exhibit halls, and the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre, Cockrell Butterfly Center, Burke Baker Planetarium, and George Observatory, and as host to world-class and ever-changing touring exhibitions, the Museum has something to delight every age group. With such diverse and extraordinary offerings, a trip to the Houston Museum of Natural Science, located at 5555 Hermann Park Drive in the heart of the Museum District, is always an adventure.

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