A rare bird fossil dating back from the age of dinosaurs deepens the mystery surrounding modern birds origins. Researchers analyzed the almost perfectly preserved remnants of an ancient bird the size of a turkey vulture. It lived, according to the study’s report, about 75 million years ago.
The bizarre creature, named Mirarce eatoni, was an excellent flyer, presenting the same flying adaptation as the modern-day birds. However, this bird, as well as its whole family group, went extinct during the mass extinction that killed all the dinosaurs about 65 million years ago. According to the experts, only one group of birds that are still existing today survived the cataclysm.
“We know that birds in the early Cretaceous, about 115 to 130 million years ago, were capable of flight but probably not as well adapted for it as modern birds. What this new fossil show is that enantiornithines, though totally separate from modern birds, evolved some of the same adaptations for highly refined, advanced flight styles,” said Jessie Atterholt from the University of California at Berkeley.
Rare Bird Fossil From The Age of Dinosaurs Deepens The Mystery Surrounding Modern Birds Origins
Although it looked like a modern-day bird, M. Eatoni had teeth in the front side of its beak, while its wings and feet possessed claws. The rare bird fossil was found in Utah in 1992 and is displayed at the University of California Museum of Palaeontology at Berkeley. However, the researchers analyzed the remnants only now.
According to scientists, the modern-day birds evolved from feathered two-legged “theropod” dinosaurs, the species to which T. Rex also belonged. Enantiornithines, in particular, were very, very common about 70 million years ago, as reported by Jessie Atterholt. She added that M. Eatoni had powerful flight muscles and anchor points known as “quill knobs” on its forearm bones which strengthen the wings for active flying.
“This is the first discovery of quill knobs in any enantiornithine bird, which tells us that it was a very strong flyer,” concluded Jessie Atterholt.
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