Researchers have recently found the remains of the oldest ancestor of modern birds in China. The remains were embedded in an ancient rock chunk near a north-eastern Chinese town. According to the researchers, the silt rock carrying the remains was formed as many as 130 million years back. The fossilized remains of this ancient bird were complete with perfectly preserved plumage.
This discovery pushes back the age of the oldest ancestor of the modern birds by a minimum of 5 million years. The age of the specimen discovered during this study suggests that during the early Cretaceous our planet was already home to several bird groups.
Scientists are referring to this new bird species at Archaeornithura meemannae. Analysis of its remains suggests that its head crest was feathery and it possessed a body that was only as big as a sparrow.
During the analysis, scientists also came to know that the Archaeornithura meemannae’s tail was fan-shaped, and it had overlapping feathers. Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that this special arrangement of the fathers allowed the birds to generate lift after spreading their wings.
Each wing’s leading age carried a bunch of feathers known as the alula. Many also refer to these bunches as bustard wings. Some modern birds like kestrels still carry bastard wings.
Min Wang, a scientist representing the Chinese Academy of Sciences, when asked about this newly discovered prehistoric bird species, said that his colleagues came across remains of a couple of Archaeornithura meemannae when carrying out an excavation in the Sichakou basin in the Hebei province of China.
He added that his colleagues cracked open a lump of rock using a hammer and discovered some bones inside it. The research team brought the bones and the broken pieces of the rock to the Tianyu Natural History Museum of Shandong, where the items underwent detailed analysis.
Wang further said that before this discovery the oldest known ancestor of modern birds was believed to exist 125 million years ago; this discovery has proved that actually the oldest known ancestor of today’s birds came into being over 130 years ago.
Wang and his team were surprised to see how well nature has preserved the feathers of the prehistoric bird. More than 130 million years have passed, but the feathers are still beautiful.