Tech UPTechnologyThis is what a chick looked like from the...

This is what a chick looked like from the time of the dinosaurs

Some 127 million years ago, tiny birds the size of a grasshopper lived alongside some of the largest animals that ever walked the Earth , including long-necked sauropods (such as Diplodocus), a new study published in the US has concluded. journal Nature Communications.

When alive, this chick was less than 5 centimeters long and weighed only 85 grams, about the weight of a fifth of a golf ball. That makes it one of the smallest recorded birds from the age of dinosaurs , according to the authors.

Almost all of the fossilized skeleton of the little bird had been preserved, making it a paleontological treasure that provides insight into how this group of birds – Enantiornithes, an extinct subclass of birds that tended to have teeth and claws on their wings – grew after hatching. from their eggs, a critical stage in the formation of a bird’s skeleton.

It is not yet clear if the bird is a newly discovered species, or if it belongs to a previously identified species, such as Concornis lacustris or Iberomesornis romerali, which are other birds of this subclass found in the same place, the Las Hoyas fossil site in Cuenca. (Spain), the researchers clarify.

But the lack of a name didn’t stop scientists from studying it. The team members used synchrotron radiation to image the small specimen at the submicron level. (A micron, or micrometer, is one millionth of a meter. By comparison, a strand of human hair has a diameter of about 50 to 100 microns).

“New technologies offer paleontologists unprecedented capabilities to investigate provocative fossils,” said Fabian Knoll, a paleontologist at the Interdisciplinary Center for Ancient Life at the University of Manchester and ARAID-Dinopolis, the museum of paleontology in Spain, in a statement from the University of Manchester (UK).

Analysis revealed that the little bird died shortly after being born. Also, the chick’s sternum (the pectoral bone) had not yet developed into hard, solid bone, and was still made up mostly of cartilage, meaning the Cretaceous period chick probably would not have been able to fly by the time it died. .

Furthermore, the ossification (bone hardening) patterns in the bird are quite different from those of other young enantiornite birds discovered over the years, suggesting that the developmental strategies of these ancient flying birds were more diverse than It was previously thought, the researchers clarify.

But while this newly discovered bird probably couldn’t fly, it wasn’t necessarily dependent on its parents for food and care. While some modern chicks are “altricial”, that is, they are born blind, without open ear canals, practically without hair or feathers and with very reduced mobility, others are quite “precocious” or even independent.

“This new discovery, along with others from around the world, gives us a glimpse into the world of ancient birds that lived during the age of dinosaurs. It is amazing to realize how many of the characteristics we see among living birds already exist. they had developed more than 100 million years ago, “explains Luis Chiappe, from the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History and co-author of the study.

The little bird is in the Museum of Paleontology of Castilla-La Mancha, in Cuenca.

 

Referencia: Fabien Knoll, Luis M. Chiappe, Sophie Sanchez, Russell J. Garwood, Nicholas P. Edwards, Roy A. Wogelius, William I. Sellers, Phillip L. Manning, Francisco Ortega, Francisco J. Serrano, Jesús Marugán-Lobón, Elena Cuesta, Fernando Escaso and José Luis Sanz. A diminutive perinate European Enantiornithes reveals an asynchronous ossification pattern in early birds. Nature Communications. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-03295-9

 

Image credit: Dr. Fabien Knoll

 

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