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Scientists discover one of the world's oldest bird species in Waipara, New Zealand



  Scientists discover one of the world's oldest bird species in Waipara, New Zealand.
& # 39; Protodontopteryx & # 39; fossil with bony, tooth-like protrusions on the bird's beak. Picture credits: Canterbury Museum. Image available CC BY NC and for news and topical affairs

In Waipara, North Canterbury, the ancestor of some of the largest birds ever to fly was found.

Bone-toothed birds ( Pelagornithidae ), an ancient family of giant seabirds, were suspected in the northern hemisphere ̵

1; but this theory was turned upside down by the discovery of the eldest of the family's smallest member of New Zealand.

At 62 million years, the newly discovered Protodontopteryx ruthae is one of the oldest bird species in the world. It was living in New Zealand shortly after the dinosaurs had died out.

While its offspring with wingspans over 5 meters were some of the largest flying birds, Protodontopteryx ruthae was only as tall as an average seagull. Like other family members, the seabird had bony, tooth-like projections on the edge of its beak.

The seabird fossil was identified by the same team that recently discovered the discovery of a 1.6 meter giant penguin from the same site.

The amateur paleontologist Leigh Love found the partial protodontopteryx skeleton in the fossil site Waipara Greensand last year. The bird was named Protodontopteryx ruthae after Ruth, the woman of love. Love wanted to thank her for tolerating his decades of passion for paleontology.

  Scientists discover one of the world's oldest bird species in Waipara, New Zealand.
Dr. Paul Scofield and amateur paleontologist Leigh Love investigate a section of the river bank on the Waipara River, near which the Protodontopteryx fossil was found. Picture credits: Canterbury Museum. Image available CC BY NC and for news and topical affairs

Amateur colleague Alan Mannering prepared the bones, and a team of Love, Mannering, curators of the Canterbury Museum, dr. Paul Scofield and dr. Vanesa De Pietri and dr. Gerald Mayr from the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum in Frankfurt, Germany, described Protodontopteryx.

Dr. According to Scofield, the age of the fossilized bones indicates that pelagornithids have developed in the southern hemisphere. "Although this bird was relatively small, the impact of its discovery on our understanding of this family is of tremendous importance – until we found this skeleton, all the really old pelagornithids were found in the northern hemisphere, and everyone thought they had evolved there."

"New Zealand was a very different place when Protodontoperyx stood in the sky, it had a tropical climate – the sea temperature was around 25 degrees, so we had corals and giant tortoises." Adds.

Dr. According to Mayr, the discovery of Protodontopteryx was "truly amazing and unexpected, being not only one of the most complete specimens of a pseudo-headed bird, but also displaying a number of unexpected skeletal features that help to better understand the evolution of these enigmatic birds."

Later pelagornithidic species developed over oceans, with some species hovering up to 6.4 meters above the wings.

The skeleton of the protodontopteryxe indicates that they are less suitable for long-haul flight than later pelagornithidic species, and probably cover much shorter areas. His short, wide pseudo teeth were probably designed for fishing. Later species had acicular pseudoteeths that were probably used to catch soft-bodied prey such as squid.

  Scientists discover one of the world's oldest bird species in Waipara, New Zealand.
& # 39; Protodontopteryx ruthae & # 39 ;. Illustration by Derek Onley. Picture credits: Canterbury Museum. Image available CC BY NC and for news and topical affairs

Dr. De Pietri says, "Since Protodontopteryx was less suitable for sustained ascent than other known pelagornithids, we can now say that pseudoteeth evolved before these birds became highly specialized gliders."

The last pelagornithid species died shortly before about 2.5 million years ago. Modern man has evolved.

At the site of Waipara Greensand, where the Protodontopteryx skeleton was found, several important scientific discoveries have been made in recent years, including ancient penguins and the world's oldest tropicbird fossil.

Some of these discoveries, including the Protodontopteryx fossil, will be displayed later this year at the museum in an exhibit on ancient New Zealand.

This research was funded by the Marsden Fund of the Royal Society of New Zealand and is published today in the journal Papers in Palaeontology .


Scientists claim that the monster penguin once swam in New Zealand's oceans


Further information:
The oldest, smallest and most phylogenetically basal pelagornite from the early Paleocene of New Zealand provides information about the evolutionary history of the largest flying birds, articles in paleontology, 2019. By Gerald Mayr, Vanesa L. de Pietri, Leigh Love, Al Mannering and R Paul Scofield. DOI: 10.1002 / spp2.1284

Provided by
Canterbury Museum




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Scientists discover one of the world's oldest bird species in Waipara, New Zealand (2019, 17 September)
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