Scientists have discovered an exceptionally well-preserved fossil that sheds new light on how prehistoric bird species may have lived 125 million years ago.
The ancient wing dates from the Lower Cretaceous period and was unearthed from limestone in central Spain. Its startling appearance suggests that the earliest birds in history were just as capable of complicated tricks and maneuvers in the sky as contemporary fowl.
It is a well-known fact that the most ancient bird species was Archaeopteryx, whose habitat was in modern-day Germany, approximately 150 million years ago.
Nevertheless, little had been revealed regarding the actual behavior of birds during flight at that moment in history. It was even uncertain if prehistoric avian creatures could actually keep themselves above the ground.
Now, however, this ground-breaking discovery provides more information regarding those ancient times.
Aside from preserving articulated bones, the fossil is also covered in a multitude of feathers, and there are also remnants of soft tissue. This complex assortment of fibers in the soft anatomy of the forelimb is similar to that of birds nowadays, according to paleontologists.
As a result, this indicates that prehistoric birds may have been just as capable of accurately changing direction, or adjusting to wind or other weather conditions. Not only could they lift themselves from the earth, but they could also control the position and movement of their feathers.
Their intricate web of ligaments, tendons and muscles allowed them to be skilled flyers, that could valiantly perform mind-blowing tricks in the sky just like their modern-day counterparts.
As study lead author Guillermo Navalon points outs, this is a remarkable discovery for experts, given how different these avian creatures had initially appeared in terms of skeletal structure.
“The anatomical match between the fibers preserved in the fossil and those that characterize the wings of living birds strongly indicates that some of the earliest birds were capable of aerodynamic prowess like many present-day birds” explains Luis Chiappe, Director of the Dinosaur Institute, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
The findings were published in the Journal Scientific Reports, and although they help paint a more vivid picture of those prehistoric times, some details still remain shrouded in mystery.
For example, although now it has been proven that ancient birds did have the anatomical structure to be masterful flyers, little is known regarding the actual flight modes of these species. More research needs to be conducted before the evolution of early birds can be fully comprehended.
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