A team of researchers has discovered what seems to be the oldest known bird relative. The fossils were found in northeastern China and experts say they are more than 130.7 million years old.
The prehistoric bird ancestor’s scientific name is Archaeornithura meemannae and scientists say that it pushes back the evolutionary record of today’s birds by almost 6 million years.
The Archaeopteryx, which lived approximately 145 million years ago, is still the oldest known species of bird but it doesn’t have any living relatives.
The newly found 130 million year old bird relative looked almost like modern shorebirds, according to Zhonghe Zhou, the lead author of the study.
Zhou is director of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
The researchers presented their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Zhou and his colleagues studied the fossils of the bird ancestor, which was represented by two specimens which remained preserved in a very good condition.
Min Wang, one of the lead researchers, said that the bird’s forelimbs were actually shorter than the back limbs, which is very unusual.
Because of the bird’s long legs and slim and other aspects of its anatomy, the scientists believe that the ancient bird lived in the vicinity of lakes, searching the lake shore for insects and other small animals to eat.
The modern herons and cranes, which have long legs, have a similar lifestyle.
The prehistoric bird had feathers and could fly, but its wings were quite short, which made the researchers assume that the bird lived mostly on the ground.
According to the experts, feathered species of dinosaurs lived during the Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods in China, but only some evolved into birds like A. meemannae.
Researchers don’t know for sure which dinosaur species descended into birds, but Wang and his team believe that scansoriopterygids, troodontids and dromaeosaurids could be some of them.
Zhou believes that some of the feathered dinosaurs may have lived in forests. These prehistoric creatures were gliding, jumping and climbing.
They could do all these because they had feathered or even bat-like membrane wings.
The dinosaurs that eventually evolved into birds gave rise to creatures like Archaeopteryx and another ancient bird known as Jeholornis.
The dinosaurs that were not avian were killed during the mass extinction that happened 65 million years ago.
But some dinosaur birds that had both teeth and claws also perished because of the devastating event.
Image Source: theguardian