Ancient seabird discovery suggests Paleogene bird diversification

January 31, 2014

Bones of a previously unknown species prove to be one of the oldest seabirds.

Fossils discovered in Canterbury, New Zealand reveal the nature of one of the world's oldest flying seabirds. Thought to have lived between 60.5 and 61.6 million years ago, the fossil is suggested to have formed shortly after the extinction of dinosaurs and many .

Bones of the bird were discovered in 2009 by Leigh Love, an amateur fossil collector. The new species, Australornis lovei has been named as such in honour of Love's discovery.

The bird lacks key morphological features of penguins, though it was found near the fossils of the Waimanu manneringi, the oldest penguin, of which it is also estimated to be the same age.

The research is published in Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand by Dr Gerald Mayr and Dr Paul Scofield. The authors claim the discovery 'represents one of the most significant records of a marine Paleocene bird from the Southern Hemisphere' and supports the 'emerging view that most modern birds were already diversified in the earliest Paleogene'.

Despite the distinctness of this , its derived features are not limited to a single bird group. It does resemble an from Antarctica, however, highlighting the links between Antarctica and New Zealand in the late Cretaceous period.

Explore further: Scientists get first full look at prehistoric New Zealand penguin

More information: G Mayr & RP Scofield, "First diagnosable non-sphenisciform bird from the early Paleocene of New Zealand." Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand, DOI: 10.1080/03036758.2013.863788

Related Stories

Did the South American Hoatzins originate in Europe?

January 23, 2014

Where did hoatzins come from? These unusual birds, only one species of which exists in South America today, originated in the Old World. Studies of the oldest known fossils of Hoatzin ancestors have now shown that these birds ...

Primitive birds shared dinosaurs' fate

September 19, 2011

A new study puts an end to the longstanding debate about how archaic birds went extinct, suggesting they were virtually wiped out by the same meteorite impact that put an end to dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

Researchers reveal new New Zealand fossil dolphin

January 22, 2014

(Phys.org) —A newly recognised fossil dolphin from New Zealand, dubbed Papahu taitapu, is the first of its kind ever found and may be a close relation to the ancestors of modern dolphins and toothed whales, according to ...

Recommended for you

How to cut your lawn for grasshoppers

November 22, 2017

Picture a grasshopper landing randomly on a lawn of fixed area. If it then jumps a certain distance in a random direction, what shape should the lawn be to maximise the chance that the grasshopper stays on the lawn after ...

Plague likely a Stone Age arrival to central Europe

November 22, 2017

A team of researchers led by scientists at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History has sequenced the first six European genomes of the plague-causing bacterium Yersinia pestis dating from the Late Neolithic ...

Ancient barley took high road to China

November 21, 2017

First domesticated 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East, wheat and barley took vastly different routes to China, with barley switching from a winter to both a winter and summer crop during a thousand-year ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.