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Wonderchicken: the oldest direct relative of modern birds ever discovered


This wonderchicken walked the earth with the dinosaurs

This wonderchicken walked the earth with the dinosaurs. An early ancestor of ducks and chickens roamed the shores of modern Europe just prior to the asteroid impact, which triggered a global extinction event. Twenty years ago, near the border between Belgium and the Netherlands, an amateur fossil hunter named Maarten van Dinther picked up a featureless block of rock the size of a deck of cards. Although he did not know it at the time, the small slab contained a perfect little skull of the oldest direct relative of modern birds ever discovered, a bird that walked the Earth with dinosaurs.


An artist reconstructs the world’s oldest modern bird, Asterianis maastrichtensis, in its native environment. Parts of Belgium were covered by shallow sea 66.7 million years ago, and conditions were similar to modern tropical beaches like the Bahamas. The animal, affectionately nicknamed the ‘chicken of wonders’ by the international team of scientists who analyzed the fossil, lived 66.7 million years ago, just 700,000 years before the asteroid impact that killed all non-avian dinosaurs.

astornis mastrichtensis

Named in a paper published today in Nature, Asteriannis, the species, known from fossils of its hind limbs in addition to its skull, has similar characteristics to both ducks and chickens, suggesting it was related to a shared ancestor of both groups. This is an extraordinary and exciting discovery, revealing new insights into a much less well-known chapter in avian evolution, says Gerald Meyer.

An ornithologist and bird evolution expert at the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt, Germany. That he was not part of it. new study. asterianis was a long-legged shorebird that may have been able to fly and possibly comb the shores of late Cretaceous Europe, which then had rows of islands in warm, shallow seas and a climate similar to today’s Bahamas.

contemporaries of T. Rex

This is the first time we have seen a well-preserved skull of a modern bird from the age of dinosaurs, says lead study author Daniel Field, a paleontologist at the University of Cambridge. Asternis gives us our clearest view of what modern birds were like … at a time when T. rex and Triceratops were still alive.

The 66.7-million-year-old fossil comes from the northern hemisphere, while all other modern bird remains from the Cretaceous period are from the southern hemisphere. Such fossils include the bones of a duck-like species called Vegavis, found in 66.5 million-year-old rocks on the Antarctic Peninsula and described in 2005.

modern bird

While many birds lived alongside dinosaurs, most were members of archaic groups, such as the toothed Enantiornithes, which, along with most large land animals, became extinct. All modern birds descend from a group called Neornithes, which appeared towards the end of the Cretaceous. The specimen is beautiful, the first really good neronitin from the Cretaceous, says Jingmai O’Connor.

An expert on fossil birds at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing, China, who was not part of the new study. Until now, most living Cretaceous bird fossils have remained “fragmented and questionable,” but the new discovery hints at the possibility of finding additional well-preserved modern bird relatives that lived prior to impact. and extinction event.

anatomy of a wonderchicken

Asterianis likely resembled the last common ancestor of the Anseriformes, an order of birds that includes ducks and geese, and Galliformes, such as chickens and turkeys. We already knew that these clades split during the Cretaceous, so we knew that the ancestors of these groups were present, O’Connor says. But now paleontologists have finally made a discovery. Live chicken and duck skulls “are very different from today.

So the Asternis skull provides the first glimpse we’ve seen of what the skulls of the most recent common ancestor of these groups probably looked like,” says Fields. Other groups of live birds believed to have appeared during the Cretaceous period include Paleognoth birds such as the ostrich, emu, rhea, and cassowary. Paleognath, Anseriformes, and Galliformes are some of the deepest branches of the modern bird family tree, and many other groups of birds may not appear until after the asteroid hit.

find an opportunity

After discovering the ‘chicken of wonders’ fossil in 2000, van Dinther donated the specimens to the Maastricht Museum of Natural History in the Netherlands. That museum’s curator and co-author of the new study, John Jagat, sent four small rock blocks containing the limb bones to the field in 2018. From the outward appearance of the fossils, Field had little hope of finding anything more exciting than broken limb bones. But Upper Cretaceous birds are rare.

So they decided to run the fossils through a high-resolution CT scanner to visualize what was hidden within the rock. He and one of his doctoral students, Juan Benito, were surprised to discover “a beautifully preserved, almost complete 3D skull of a modern bird,” says Field. It is the first modern bird skull of the entire Mesozoic Era, and one of the best preserved fossil bird skulls of any era.

They say the discovery was one of the most exciting moments in Field’s scientific career so far. Field says the study authors named the new species after Asteria, the Greek titan goddess of shooting stars, who turned into a quail, an appropriate name for a bird that used to mark the end of the age of dinosaurs.

uniting avian history

Several discoveries in recent years have shed light on the prehistoric origins of groups of living birds and how these animals managed to survive one of the largest extinction events in Earth’s history. Meyer says that fossil birds from New Zealand and Antarctica that lived shortly after the impact have been described as species over the years.

Since the oldest modern bird fossils are from the southern hemisphere, including the previous record holder for the oldest modern bird, Vegavis from Antarctica, some paleontologists have suggested that modern birds originated from the southern supercontinent of Gondwana in the time of the dinosaurs. But this new discovery of a bird older than Vegavis in the Northern Hemisphere makes a dent in this theory.

geographic origins of modern birds

At this point, I think the only thing we can say for sure is that the geographic origins of modern birds are really mysterious, says Fields. Only future fossil discoveries can tell us where modern birds originated on Earth. Wonderchicken, a new species of ancient bird has been identified. A new species of ancient bird has been identified with nearly complete skulls, preserved at three points, and related bones found in Belgium.

Detailed analysis of the skull suggests that it combines land flow and waterfowl characteristics, suggesting that the bird is close to the last common ancestor of modern chickens and ducks. Asteriornis maastrichtensis is the first modern bird of the dinosaur age to be found in the northern hemisphere. Image by Philip Krzymski.

Named after The Wonderchicken and scientific name for Asterionis maastrichtensis, the prehistoric bird lived 66.75 million years ago (Cretaceous period). Asteriornis maastrichtensis is the first modern dinosaur-era bird to be found in the northern hemisphere. Its fossil remains were discovered in a limestone quarry near the Belgian-Dutch border. An evolutionist from the Department of Earth Sciences at Cambridge University.


Daniel Field said: The moment I first saw what was under the rock was the most exciting moment in my scientific life. It is one of the best preserved fossil bird skulls of any age, from anywhere in the world. When we saw it, knowing that it was at such a critical moment in Earth’s history. We almost had to pinch ourselves. Finding the skull has ruined my mind.

Without cutting-edge CT scans, we would never have known that we had the world’s oldest modern bird skull, said co-author Juan Benito. A researcher at the University’s Department of Earth Sciences. from Cambridge and the Rudd Biology Department at the University of Bath and biochemistry. The skull of Asteriornis maastrichtensis is clearly recognizable as a modern bird.

It adds a number of characteristics to the group, including live chickens and ducks, a group called Gallolencera. The origins of the variety of live birds are shrouded in mystery, other than knowing that modern birds were born sometime at the end of the dinosaur age. We have very little fossil evidence of the asteroid until it hits, said the co-author and PhD.

future fossil discoveries

Student Albert Chen, also from the University of Cambridge and the University of Bath. This fossil provides our first direct glimpse of what modern birds would have liked during the early stages of their evolutionary history. The fact that Asteriornis maastrichtensis was discovered in Europe is another thing that makes it so extraordinary. The Late Cretaceous fossil record of birds from Europe is extremely rare.

The discovery of Asteriornis maastrichtensis provides some earlier evidence and that Europe was an important area in the early evolutionary history of modern birds, said the author, Dr. Said John Jagt, a researcher at the Natural History Museum in Maastricht. The Netherlands, this fossil tells us that at least some modern birds at first were fairly small-bodied, ground-dwelling birds that lived on the seashore. Asteriornis maastrichtensis now provides us with a search image for future fossil discoveries.

fossil bird paleontologist

It is expected to enter a new era of fossils, helping to clarify how, when, and where modern birds evolved. We are not sure how it would have known, but a fossil bird paleontologist is calling it “Wonderchicken”. Which has the distinction of being the first modern example of birds known to science.

The fossil comes from an entire skull that dates back at least a million years to an asteroid, triggering a mass extinction event in the late Cretaceous period, annihilating the large dinosaurs entirely. Paleontologists have described the skull and the bird to which it belonged in detail, in a new study published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

chickens and ducks

The researchers were able to identify a 66.7 million-year-old bird skull that was hidden in limestone. Surprisingly, Wonderchicken shares with today’s chickens and ducks, hence its nickname. The study provides new clues to how the Wonderchicken, Asterionis mastictensis, survived the asteroid, while the large dinosaurs were destroyed.

The time of the discovery, which took place in a limestone mine in Belgium, is lead author Daniel Field, a researcher at the University of Cambridge. The moment I first saw what was under the rock was the most exciting moment in my scientific career, Field said in a statement.

New species of fossil bird from the Eosin period in Utah A new species of extinct bird similar to quail. A new species of extinct bird similar to quail has been identified from a fossil found in eastern Utah. Uintan paraortgid reconstruction. Image of Thomas Stidham. Nicknamed the paraortguia of Uintan. The ancient bird lived about 44 million years ago during the Eosin period.

new species of fossil bird

It belongs to an extinct group, called paraortigde, which is a relative of live Galliformes, the group that includes live chicken, turkey, guinea fowl and quail. This fits into a fossil record of intervals of approximately 15 million years in Gallic descent in North America. Uintan paraortygid is similar in small living galleries such as quail and mountainous parts, said Dr. Thomas Stidham.

palaeontology and paleoanthropology

And paleontologist at the Institute of Palaeontology and Paleoanthropology of Vertebrates, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and his colleagues. He probably lived before the development of the great harvest and gizzard we see in chickens and live turkeys. So Utah species probably had a different diet than their living relatives.

The first fossils of this group of paratigids are from dry habitats, seahorses and inland forests that show that they had resistance in ecology and diet. Another interesting aspect of Uintan’s paraortygid is that it resembles the small size of sediments with a similar geological age of Namibia from South Asia and Uzbekistan in Central Asia and the unique shape of other early paraortygid fossils.

animal community

Which are interconnected by all the oceans, they were different. The researchers said: Persetigida fossils from Europe, Asia, Africa and North America show that the group extended very early in its evolution and crossed the oceans so that it could spread widely. The scapula of the parantagid Untan. A small, distinctive bone was collected from the shoulder waist of the Uintan paraortgid of the Uinta Formation in the Uinta Basin, Utah.

The scientist of the University of the Midwest, Drs. Beth Townsend said: The new Uinta bird not only fills the time gaps, but also helps us better understand the animal community. The Uinta basin is important for understanding ecosystems in times of global hot temperatures, when forests, primates and the first horses spread over an area that is now a desert.

bird development

The discovery of this new paraortgid shows us that the small birds that inhabited the ground were part of these ancient forests and could compete with the first mammals for resources. Small abnd incomplete fossils can also provide data to connect global scientific questions, Dr. Stidham said. The findings were published in Diversity magazine.

The discovery of the smallest known Mesozoic dinosaur reveals new species in bird development. The discovery of a small, bird-like skull, described in an article published in Nature, reveals a new species. The Oculudentavis khungrai, that may have represented the smallest known Mesozoic dinosaur in the fossil record. While working on fossils in northern Myanmar, Lars Schmitz, associate professor of biology, W.M.

The KK Science Department and a team of international researchers discovered an apparently mature skull specimen in Burmese amber. The smallest living bird is the same size as bee sparrows. Preserving amber vertebrae is rare, and it provides us with a window into the world of dinosaurs at the lower end of the body-size spectrum, said Schmitz. Its unique physical characteristics point to one of the smallest and oldest birds.

body size in the development process

The team studied the characteristic features of the specimen with high-resolution synchrotron scans to determine how the skull of the Oculudentvis dagger differed from other bird-like dinosaur specimens of the time. They found that the shape and size of the eye bones suggested a complete lifestyle. But they also revealed striking similarities to the eyes of modern lizards. The skull also displays a unique fusion pattern between various bone elements.

As well as the appearance of the teeth. The researchers concluded that the small sample size and the unusually never-before-seen combination suggests characteristics. The discovery represents a specimen that was previously missing from the fossil record and provides new implications for understanding bird evolution, demonstrating extreme miniaturization of avian body size in the development process.

Specimen preservation also highlights the ability of amber deposits to reveal vertebrate body size minima. No other group of live birds has species with an equally small skull in adults, said Schmitz. This discovery tells us that we only have a small glimpse of what small vertebrates looked like in the age of dinosaurs.

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