A team of international paleontologists have uncovered the oldest modern bird fossil yet, dating their find to approximately 67 million-years ago — a time just before the Earth was slammed by.The new find challenges our understanding of the origins of living birds and includes a wonderfully-preserved skull resembling today’s ducks and chickens.
It is my pleasure to introduce to you Asteriornis maastrichtensis, or as it’s been lovingly dubbed, the “Wonderchicken”.
A study, published in the journal Nature on Wednesday, describes the discovery of a collection of bones found embedded in rocks within the Maastricht formation, a fossil site located in Belgium. Paleontologists saw leg bone fragments sticking out of a rock face at the site and ran their find through a high-resolution X-ray scanner. Just below the surface, the scans revealed a fantastically-preserved skull.
“Until we CT scanned some rocks with poorly preserve bird limb bones poking out, we had no idea how spectacular this new fossil was,” says Daniel Field, a paleobiologist at the University of Cambridge and first author on the new study
“This was the shock of our scientific careers, and when we realized that the fossil showed some similar features to living chicken-like birds, the name Wonderchicken was born.”