Date:

Chinese Cretaceous fossil highlights avian evolution

A newly identified extinct bird species from a 127 million-year-old fossil deposit in northeastern China provides new information about avian development during the early evolution of flight.

Drs. WANG Min, Thomas Stidham, and ZHOU Zhonghe from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences reported their study of the well-preserved complete skeleton and feathers of this early bird in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

- Advertisement -

The analysis of this early Cretaceous fossil shows it is from a pivotal point in the evolution of flight – after birds lost their long bony tail, but before they evolved a fan of flight feathers on their shortened tail.

The scientists named this extinct species Jinguofortis perplexus. The genus name “Jinguofortis” honors women scientists around the world. It derives from the Chinese word “jinguo,” meaning female warrior, and the Latin word “fortis” meaning brave.

Jinguofortis perplexus has a unique combination of traits, including a jaw with small teeth like its theropod dinosaur relatives; a short bony tail ending in a compound bone called a pygostyle; gizzard stones showing that it mostly ate plants; and a third finger with only two bones, unlike other early birds.

The fossil’s shoulder joint also gives clues about its flight capacity. In flying birds, the shoulder, which experiences high stress during flight, is a tight joint between unfused bones. In contrast, Jinguofortis perplexus preserves a shoulder girdle where the major bones of the shoulder, the shoulder blade (scapula) and the coracoid, are fused to one another, forming a scapulocoracoid.

- Advertisement -

The existence of a fused shoulder girdle in this short-tailed fossil suggests evolutionary variety during this stage of evolution, which probably resulted in different styles of flight. Based on its skeleton and feathers, Jinguofortis perplexus probably flew a bit differently than birds do today.

Measurement of the fossil’s wing size and estimation of its body mass show that the extinct species had a wing shape and wing loading (wing area divided by body mass) similar to living birds that need a lot of maneuverability. These traits would have helped it fly in the dense forests of northeastern China’s Cretaceous period.

CHINESE ACADEMY OF SCIENCES HEADQUARTERS

Header Image – A 127-million-year-old fossil bird, Jinguofortis perplexus (reconstruction on the right, artwork by Chung-Tat Cheung), second earliest member of the short-tailed birds Pygostylia. Credit : WANG Min

- Advertisement -
spot_img
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is multi-award-winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 8,000 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education, the BCA Medal of Honour, and the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award.
spot_img

Mobile Application

spot_img

Related Articles

Underwater archaeologists find 112 glassware objects off Bulgaria’s coast

A team of underwater archaeologists from the Regional Historical Museum Burgas have recovered 112 glass objects from Chengene Skele Bay, near Burgas, Bulgaria.

Bronze Age axe found off Norway’s east coast

Archaeologists from the Norwegian Maritime Museum have discovered a Bronze Age axe off the coast of Arendal in the Skagerrak strait.

Traces of Bahrain’s lost Christian community found in Samahij

Archaeologists from the University of Exeter, in collaboration with the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities, have discovered the first physical evidence of a long-lost Christian community in Samahij, Bahrain.

Archaeologists uncover preserved wooden elements from Neolithic settlement

Archaeologists have discovered wooden architectural elements at the La Draga Neolithic settlement.

Pyramid of the Moon marked astronomical orientation axis of Teōtīhuacān

Teōtīhuacān, loosely translated as "birthplace of the gods," is an ancient Mesoamerican city situated in the Teotihuacan Valley, Mexico.

Anglo-Saxon cemetery discovered in Malmesbury

Archaeologists have discovered an Anglo-Saxon cemetery in the grounds of the Old Bell Hotel in Malmesbury, England.

Musket balls from “Concord Fight” found in Massachusetts

Archaeologists have unearthed five musket balls fired during the opening battle of the Revolutionary War at Minute Man National Historical Park in Concord, United States.

3500-year-old ritual table found in Azerbaijan

Archaeologists from the University of Catania have discovered a 3500-year-old ritual table with the ceramic tableware still in...