Scientists uncovered a tiny fossil of a prehistoric baby bird, dating back to the Mesozoic Era(250-65 million years ago). This fossil could shed light on how early avians managed to evolve in a world where massive dinosaurs roamed.
According to researchers at the University of Manchester in the UK, the bird fossil is a chick belonging to a group of prehistoric birds called Enantiornithes.
Researchers claim that the ancient bird roamed the prehistoric Earth 127 million years ago and it would’ve been less than five centimeters (1.97 inches) tall and had a weight of 8.5 grams (0.3 ounces). The fossil, which is made up of a nearly complete skeleton, is amongst the smallest known Mesozoic avian fossils ever discovered.
What sets this discovery apart from other similar avian fossils is its death. According to the researchers, the avian died not long after its birth, which means that the prehistoric bird was still developing its skeleton. The bird’s extremely short life allowed researchers to analyze the species’ bone structure and development.
“The evolutionary diversification of birds has resulted in a wide range of hatchling developmental strategies and important difference in their growth rates,” said Fabien Knoll from the University of Manchester.
Knoll and his team used a synchrotron radiation to analyze the fossils small skeleton. They found the baby bird’s sternum was still made of cartilage, meaning that it had not developed into solid bone when it died. This would suggest that the prehistoric bird would not have been able to fly.
The researchers note that the bird’s lack of bone development did not necessarily mean that the avian relied heavily on its parents for care and feeding. According to them, this particular group of birds may have developed in more diverse ways than had been previously thought.
The research was published in the journal, Nature Communications.
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