A study involving a 99-million-year-old piece of Burmese amber is making waves thanks to the cute little creature caught inside. According to Popular Science, a well-preserved baby bird trapped in the sap just a few days or weeks after hatching may be the key to unlocking secrets of the Cretaceous period. The three-inch bird, nicknamed Belone, is technically an avian dinosaur, notes the Washington Post, but it belonged to an extinct species of bird known as enantiornithes. They have no modern relatives, but are similar to birds we see today save a few distinct features, like teeth and wings with clawed fingers. And given the fossil’s condition, scientists are already making discoveries.
Researcher Lida Xing says the team initially thought it had “just a pair of feet and some feathers before it underwent CT imaging” and that “it was a big, big, big surprise after that," per National Geographic. Belone is the most complete fossil found of its kind, with almost half of its body intact, including feet, a head and neck, and a piece of wing. And though it was encased in amber so close to hatching, the fossil already had flight feathers. Researchers believe that being able to fly at such a young age, maybe even upon hatching, could mean the species was "highly precocial,” or needed to fend for itself at a much earlier age than today’s tree-living birdlings, who have much more doting parents. (Last year, scientists found an ancient flower species similarly trapped in amber.)