Paleontologists Found the Oldest Fossil of a Modern Bird
Wed, April 21, 2021

Paleontologists Found the Oldest Fossil of a Modern Bird


When a team of paleontologists discovered a perfectly preserved skull and a few limbs inside a small rock in Belgium, they thought it was insignificant at first. An examination of these remains revealed a small bird skull, which surprised the team. “The timeline was: See the skull, scream ‘Holy s—,’ give my Ph.D. student a high five, and then start calling it the Wonderchicken,” Daniel Field, a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Cambridge, said. 


Credits: All That’s Interesting


It turns out that the remains belong to a 67 million-year-old chicken-duck hybrid which is believed to be the oldest modern bird fossil yet known and the earliest ancestor of chickens and ducks. It was named “Wonderchicken” (Asteriornis maastrichtensis), believed to have survived the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs. Using a process called method tomography, which is essentially a kind of X-ray, the researchers identified a small bird skull inside the rock. 


Credits: All That’s Interesting


According to All That’s Interesting, a site for curious people who want to know more about what they see on the news or read in history books, the discovery of the Wonderchicken gave scientists a more accurate evolutionary timeline for the modern bird. “This is one of the most important bird fossils that has been found in quite some time,” Stephen Brusatte, a vertebrate paleontologist from the University of Edinburgh who was not involved in the study, said. 


Credits: All That’s Interesting


The researchers discovered that the Wonderchicken had wings, a beak, and was roughly quail-like in size. Field stated that the animal features a “never previously seen mashup of ducklike and chickenlike features.” It was also not a picky eater, just like modern chickens. This explains why a lot of birds like chickens have no specialized beak shape that allows them to have a more diverse diet. “An unspecialized diet is the kind of feature that might have helped animals like the Wonderchicken survive,” Field said. 




GiAnn Esgana

Rodents' Skull Size is the Secret Behind Their Survivor Reputation


Frances Briñas

Chickens: An Alternative Pet for Owners and Carers