Reconstruction of the birdPicture copyright
Phillip Krzeminski

Picture caption

The chook might have lived on the shoreline

A newly found fossil chook could possibly be the earliest recognized ancestor of each hen on the planet.

Residing simply earlier than the asteroid strike that worn out big dinosaurs, the distinctive fossil, from about 67 million years in the past, offers a glimpse into the daybreak of recent birds.

Birds are descended from dinosaurs, however exactly once they developed into birds like those alive immediately has been troublesome to reply.

This is because of an absence of fossil information.

The newly found – and well-preserved – fossil cranium ought to assist fill in a number of the gaps.

“It is a distinctive specimen: we have been calling it the ‘wonderchicken’,” mentioned Dr Daniel Discipline of the College of Cambridge.

“It is the one practically full cranium of a contemporary chook that we’ve got, up to now, from the age of dinosaurs and it is capable of inform us quite a bit in regards to the early evolutionary historical past of birds.”

Picture copyright
Daniel J Discipline

Picture caption

Scan of the chook’s cranium

The fossil chook has been named Asteriornis maastrichtensis, after Asteria, a Greek goddess of falling stars who turns right into a quail. It was present in a quarry on the Netherlands-Belgium border.

The chook weighed in at just below 400g and was an early member of the group that gave rise to modern-day chickens, geese and different poultry.

On the time, the area was lined by a shallow sea, and situations have been just like trendy tropical seashores. With its lengthy, slender legs, the chook might have been a shore dweller.

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“Birds are such a conspicuous and essential group of dwelling animals, with the ability to say one thing new about how trendy birds truly arose can be a vital factor for palaeontologists and evolutionary biologists,” mentioned Dr Discipline.

“The wonderchicken goes to rank as a really essential fossil for serving to make clear the elements that truly gave rise to trendy birds.”

The analysis is revealed within the journal Nature.

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