The ancestor of some of the most abundant flying birds ever has been found in Waipara, North Canterbury. Bony-toothed birds (Pelagornithids), a historic family of huge seafaring birds, were thought to have evolved in the Northern Hemisphere but that theory has been upended by the discovery of the family’s oldest.
At 62 million-years-previous, the newly-discovered Protodontopteryx ruthae is among the oldest named bird species in the world. It lived in New Zealand soon after the dinosaurs died out.
While its descendants have been a few of the most magnificent flying birds ever, with wingspans of greater than 5 meters, Protodontopteryx Ruthie was only the size of an average gull. Like other members of its family, the seabird had bony, tooth-like projections on the edge of its beak.
The seabird fossil was identified by the identical staff that recently introduced the invention of a 1.6 meter-excessive giant penguin from the identical website.Protodontopteryxs’ skeleton suggests it was less fitted to lengthy-distance soaring than later pelagornithids and possibly lined a lot shorter ranges. Its brief, broad pseudo teeth had been likely designed for catching fish. Later species had needle-like pseudo teeth which had been doubtless used to catch comfortable-bodied prey like squid.
The final pelagornithid species died out around 2.5 million years in the past, simply earlier than fashionable people advanced. The Waipara Greensand web site the place the Protodontopteryx skeleton was discovered has yielded several necessary scientific discoveries in recent times, together with historic penguins and the world’s oldest tropicbird fossil.
Some of these discoveries, together with the Protodontopteryx fossil, will probably be displayed in an exhibition about historical New Zealand on the Museum later this year. The research was funded by the Society of New Zealand’s Marsden Fund and is published at the moment within the journal Papers in Palaeontology.