A museum can show you with all its fossil specimens on display, but it's often only a small part of what's really there – copies in the back can be in boxes or gypsum packed in boxes that keep silent to reveal secrets or additional mysteries about the past. Such is the case with an incredible bird fossil, found 25 years ago in Utah but just just described.
The fossil is quite nuts – a kale-species extinct bird is called an enantiornitin, which apparently is very capable of flying, and perhaps one of the most complete of its kind ever found in North America. It enhances the mystery of why some dinosaurs went out, but others (the birds we see today) stuck.
"The skeleton tells an interesting evolutionary story. Just before they were extinct, the enantiornitins had separately developed adaptations for advanced flight just like modern birds," said author Jessie Atterholt, deputy professor at the Western University of Health Sciences, to Gizmodo.
This fossil has a story quarter in the century. Paleontologist Howard Hutchison found it on a trip to the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah, in 75 million years old stones. Lots of palaeontologists knew about the "important" test, Atterholt explained, but never stopped analyzing it. Atterholt was particularly interested in how these enantiominars developed and asked if she could work with it. "Now we finally do that," she said. She, Hutchison and researcher Jingmai O & # 39; Connor published the results today in PeerJ.
The fossil skeleton, now a new species called Mirarce eatoni, contains several vertebrae, the backbone that would support the tail feathers, almost all the legs on the left foot and some from the right, a humerus, a thigh bone, the lowest leg bone in birds called the tarsometate sauce, a wishbone, and other pieces. It was birdy watching, and probably the size of a turkey. Perhaps most exciting, Ulna or leg of legs, presented small coarse scores interpreted as "quill buds". These are features found in today's birds that reinforce the springs and guide the advanced flight, "says Atterholt.
"There is no doubt that this is one of the most important bird fossils from the age of dinosaurs," said Steve Brusatte, a paleontologist in Edinburgh who was not involved in the study, to Gizmodo.
This fossil tells about a group of birds developed parallel to the predecessors of today's modern birds, but did not do it through the mass extermination event. Its high preserved detail further shows that a multitude of diversity failed to make it past the asteroid strike. But it deepens the mystery. After the meteor survived only a few birds, which were then diversified to the 10,000 species around today. Brusatte worked on the mystery:
"Maybe they had beak and could eat seeds – a nutritious food source that can survive in the earth for decades or centuries, a food bank for when the world went to hell when the asteroid hit. Or maybe these birds were nesting on the ground so they did not dry out with the tree-lined birds when the forests collapsed after the asteroid battle, or maybe they can fly farther or grow faster or hide more easily. We do not really know. But this new discovery tells us that the birds living with the last dinosaurs were even more different than we used to think so it's more of a mystery why so few of them survived the asteroid. "
Atterholt continues to examine these bones to study what the bird was and how it developed. She also mentioned the latest controversy over the place from which the fossil originates, the Grand Staircase Escalante. Recently, President Trump reduced the size of this national monument. She pointed out that decisions like these could stop discovering like this one.
"This material would risk destroying and threatening to reduce the size of the protected countries."[PeerJ]