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'Wonderchicken' may be earliest known fowl

By T.K. Randall
March 20, 2020 · Comment icon 4 comments

Perhaps the chicken really did come first... Image Credit: Phillip Krzeminski
Scientists have identified the fossil skull of what is thought to be the earliest ancestor of modern chickens.
Discovered in a quarry on the border between Belgium and the Netherlands, this prehistoric bird weighed 400g and roamed the Earth approximately 67 million years ago.

Dubbed 'wonderchicken' or Asteriornis maastrichtensis to use its scientific name, the bird's remarkably well preserved skull has provided scientists with a unique glimpse into the history of modern birds - something for which there is a distinct lack of data due to gaps in the fossil record.

We know that birds evolved from dinosaurs, but it remains unclear exactly when this happened.

"The moment I first saw what was beneath the rock was the most exciting moment of my scientific career," said Dr Daniel Field from the University of Cambridge.
"It's the only nearly complete skull of a modern bird that we have, so far, from the age of dinosaurs and it's able to tell us quite a lot about the early evolutionary history of birds,"

When it was alive, the area in which it was found was covered by a shallow sea, suggesting that this prehistoric chicken, which had long thin legs, may have been more like today's wading birds.

"The origins of living bird diversity are shrouded in mystery - other than knowing that modern birds arose at some point towards the end of the age of dinosaurs, we have very little fossil evidence of them until after the asteroid hit," said study co-author Albert Chen.

"This fossil provides our earliest direct glimpse of what modern birds were like during the initial stages of their evolutionary history."

Source: BBC News | Comments (4)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by stevewinn 4 years ago
what was this other news that they've found DNA in a Dinosaur fossil. leading to the thinking that DNA can last longer than a Billion years. Jurassic park. Bingo Dino DNA. It'll be expensive. they'll have a coupon day.
Comment icon #2 Posted by Jon the frog 4 years ago
Unlocking sleeping gene in bird would be easier to have something that look like a dinosaur...
Comment icon #3 Posted by stevewinn 4 years ago
interesting. but would it not be a mutated bird instead of a proper Dinosaur?
Comment icon #4 Posted by Jon the frog 4 years ago
They have the genome to do it, they have done the tail, the teeth the missing bones, in the legs... it's just unchecking genome that chicken already possess. If they have found some dinosaur DNA, it will be so destroyed that anything done with it will be a mutated something too... and surely not in good health.

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