MAR 05, 2018 06:54 PM PST

Tiny Bird Fossil Astonishes Researchers

Fossils are ancient relics of our early world, and they can reveal a lot about life before people. Fortunately, scientists seem to uncover them frequently, and that’s great news for science.

One of the latest fossil discoveries involves a small bird that scientists say dates back as far as 127 million years, a time known as the Mesozoic era. Notably, it’s one of the smallest avian fossils ever found from this period, comparing in size to an average human’s pinky finger.

An artist's rendition of the small bird.

Image Credit: Raúl Martín

The full details have been published in the journal Nature Communications this week.

So why was the bird so small? Age could be a primary factor, and scientists involved in the study think that the bird may have died shortly after birth.

Given just how well-preserved the fossil was upon discovery, the scientists wanted to get a closer look at the skeleton. Through a method known as synchrotron radiation, the scientists observed the fossil at a sub-micron level to discern fine details that could provide clues about the bird’s everyday lifestyle.

The actual fossil, pictured.

Image Credit: Dr. Fabien Knoll

"New technologies are offering paleontologists unprecedented capacities to investigate provocative fossils," said study lead author Fabien Knoll from the University of Manchester. "Here we made the most of state-of-the-art facilities worldwide including three different synchrotrons in France, the U.K., and the United States."

Related: Say hello to the world's oldest plant fossil

One of the first things the researchers noticed was evidence for a soft sternum made mostly of cartilage instead of hard bone. This small detail provided insight into the bird’s young age and revealed that the bird wasn’t yet developed enough to take flight.

The team also compared their findings to those originating from other known bird fossils of similar birds from the same timeframe. Astonishingly, they found more diversity than they were expecting.

"This new discovery, together with others from around the world, allows us to peek into the world of ancient birds that lived during the age of dinosaurs," added study co-author Luis Chiappe. "It is amazing to realize how many of the features we see among living birds had already been developed more than 100 million years ago."

Related: Is this the first-known fossil of a dinosaur brain?

Scientists still have several questions concerning avian diversity on early planet Earth. Perhaps answers will unveil themselves as we continue to unearth additional fossils. Only time will tell…

Source: University of Manchester

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
SEP 17, 2018
Plants & Animals
SEP 17, 2018
Luck Enabled Scientists to Monitor a Leatherback Sea Turtle Throughout Hurricane Florence
If you’re a sea turtle, and a hurricane is headed right for your turf, what do you do? Scientists can loosely answer this question thanks to years&rs...
SEP 20, 2018
Videos
SEP 20, 2018
A Plant 'Nervous System' is Found
Learn more about how plants communicate....
SEP 24, 2018
Plants & Animals
SEP 24, 2018
Here's Why Goat Eyes Look Weird
Taking a closer look at a goat’s eyeball, you might notice that their pupils are elongated from side-to-side rather than round like a human’s;...
OCT 02, 2018
Plants & Animals
OCT 02, 2018
Despite Popular Belief, Cobra Cannibalism is Somewhat Common
You might’ve heard the expression “dog eat dog,” metaphorically, of course; but how about the one that goes: cobra eat cobra? If not, the...
OCT 24, 2018
Plants & Animals
OCT 24, 2018
Researchers Accidentally Discover a New Crocodile Species
In most cases, the discovery of a new animal species would be considered a positive finding in the scientific community. But the circumstances surrounding...
NOV 12, 2018
Plants & Animals
NOV 12, 2018
Researchers Link Sunfish Brain Size to Specific Habitats
To most people, a specific fish species would be the same whether it was found at the shoreline or in the middle of the ocean. But according to research pu...
Loading Comments...