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an international team of paleontologists have discovered the earliest known fossils of birds “modern sample”.

the Age of discovery 66.8-66,7 million years. This means that feathered, named Asteriornis maastrichtensis existed in the Cretaceous period. And, unlike the dinosaurs, this species survived the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction.

the Researchers admit: to make a discovery, helped by luck and modern technology. The curator of the natural history Museum in Maastricht found in the Museum collection are four small stone block, from which protruded the broken bones of someone’s limbs. Fossils have been found near the border between Belgium and the Netherlands.

According to the scientists, when they put the fragments of rocks in a CT scanner and saw the scan, their shouts into the room came a technician, thinking that colleagues broke the machine.

“the Moment I first saw what was hidden in rock, was the most exciting of my scientific career, — says study leader Daniel field (Daniel Field) from Cambridge University. — It was one of the best preserved skulls of fossil birds [among the specimens of] different ages found in different parts of the world.”

the Model of the skull of anteriores.Photo by University of Cambridge.

a Detailed analysis of the skull A. maastrichtensis showed that the species combines many features of modern birds from group Galloanserae (which includes Anseriformes and galliformes). Thus, the upper and back part of the skull of asterions structurally resemble those of modern ducks, while the front part and the beak is similar to those seen in chickens and turkeys.

Paleontologists have concluded that feathered, nicknamed the “wonder chicken” was a close relative of the last common ancestor of modern chickens and ducks.

According to the authors, anteriority weighed about 400 grams. In size they resembled modernx gulls, and had quite long legs. Probably these birds lived on land near the sea coast.

Experts point out that A. maastrichtensis became the first “modern” birds are dinosaurs whose remains have been found in the Northern hemisphere. The discovery of this kind proves that Europe was a key area in the early evolutionary history of birds “new generation” (previously it was thought that they flew to other continents from Antarctica).

By the way, Asteriornis the genus was named in honor of Asteria, the Greek goddess of falling stars. It’s a reminder that the bird lived till the Earth just before the asteroid impact, and a reference to the fact that the “miracle chicken” had the traits of poultry (according to mythology, Asteria turns into a quail to escape from the amorous Zeus). The species name indicates that the remains were found in Maastrichtian formations.

In the future, scientists hope to find in Europe of the remains of exteriorises and their relatives, to find out what traits helped birds survive the “asteroid Apocalypse.”

On the work done, the team reported in a paper presented in the journal Nature.

by the Way, earlier “Conduct.Science” (nauka.vesti.ru) wrote about the largest fossil bird in the Northern hemisphere, and also about the unusual birds of the Cretaceous period, one of them evolution has endowed abnormally long fingers, and on the other put even more curious experiment.

Text: To.Science