Tiny ancient fossil from Spain shows birds flew over the heads of dinosaurs

Tiny ancient fossil from Spain shows birds flew over the heads of dinosaurs
A new paper documents the intricate arrangement of the muscles and ligaments that controlled the main feathers of the wing of an ancient bird, supporting the notion that at least some of the most ancient birds performed aerodynamic feats in a fashion similar to those of many living birds. Credit: Stephanie Abramowicz

Birds have an enormously long evolutionary history: The earliest of them, the famed Archaeopteryx, lived 150 million years ago in what is today southern Germany. However, whether these early birds were capable of flying—and if so, how well—has remained shrouded in scientific controversy. A new discovery published in the journal Scientific Reports documents the intricate arrangement of the muscles and ligaments that controlled the main feathers of the wing of an ancient bird, supporting the notion that at least some of the most ancient birds performed aerodynamic feats in a fashion similar to those of many living birds.

An international team of Spanish paleontologists and NHM's Director of the Dinosaur Institute, Dr. Luis M. Chiappe, studied the exceptionally preserved wing of a 125-million-year-old bird from central Spain. Beyond the bones preserved in the fossil, the tiny wing of this ancient bird reveals details of a complex network of muscles that in modern birds controls the fine adjustments of the wing's main feathers, allowing birds to master the sky.

"The anatomical match between the muscle network preserved in the fossil and those that characterize the wings of strongly indicates that some of the earliest birds were capable of aerodynamic prowess like many present-day birds," said Chiappe, the investigation's senior scientist.

"It is very surprising that despite being skeletally quite different from their modern counterparts, these primitive birds show striking similarities in their soft anatomy," said Guillermo Navalón, a doctorate candidate at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom and lead author of the report.

Ancient birds may have flown over the heads of dinosaurs but some aspects of the precise flight modes of these early fliers still remain unclear. "The new fossil provides us with a unique glimpse into the anatomy of the wing of the birds that lived amongst some of the largest dinosaurs," said Chiappe. "Fossils such as this are allowing scientists to dissect the most intricate aspects of the early evolution of the flight of ." Other members of the research team included Dr. Jesús Marugán-Lobón, Dr. José Luis Sanz, and Dr. Ángela D. Buscalioni from Madrid's Universidad Autónoma in Spain.


Explore further

Differences in feathers shed light on evolution of flight

More information: 'Soft-tissue and dermal arrangement in the wing of an Early Cretaceous bird: Implications for the evolution of avian flight' by Guillermo Navalón, Jesús Marugán-Lobón, Luis M. Chiappe, José Luis Sanz & Ángela D. Buscalioni in Scientific Reports www.nature.com/articles/srep14864
Journal information: Scientific Reports

Citation: Tiny ancient fossil from Spain shows birds flew over the heads of dinosaurs (2015, October 6) retrieved 22 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2015-10-tiny-ancient-fossil-spain-birds.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
1077 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Oct 06, 2015
Great. Not only do we get insulted with Outbrain/Adblade/Taboola adverts on the page, now PO is writing their headlines the same way. Which is to say, lying.

Oct 07, 2015
Gotta get adblock... I forgot ads even existed.

Oct 07, 2015
Gotta get uBlock Origin... Adblock sold out to the ad makers.

Oct 07, 2015
"Birds have an enormously long evolutionary history..."

This is typical non sense. The flying apparatus of the birds can not be simplified. Neither the eye as an organ can be simplified. Neither the cell mechanisms which read the genetic information from DNA and produce necessary for the organism proteins. And many more organs and systems can not be reduced without to stop functioning. So multi step changes do not work. Especially random changes without idea.

Oct 07, 2015
Viko, primitive simple eyes exist all over in the animal kingdom. Simple systems working but getting more advanced is how it happens mostly. Not you take a fully advanced system and take something from it making the other systems inoperable. Stop trying to argue backwards

Oct 07, 2015
It's trivially easy to simplify birds wings and eyes. Why do extremely religious people refuse to think?

Oct 07, 2015
JSD is correct, and eyes surprisingly have been invented several times independently.

Oct 07, 2015
JSD is correct, and eyes surprisingly have been invented several times independently.
'Invent' verb:
1. to originate or create as a product of one's own ingenuity, experimentation, or contrivance:
to invent the telegraph.

-So who 'invented' these eyes george? One of your exceptional forefathers?

I bet you prefer the alternate defs:

2. to produce or create with the imagination:
to invent a story.
3. to make up or fabricate (something fictitious or false):
to invent excuses.

-You invent stories, fabricate facts, and invent excuses quite a lot here, dont you?

See what happens when you pretend to have an intellect?

Oct 07, 2015
The flying apparatus of the birds can not be simplified

Tell that to the flying squirrels.

Neither the eye as an organ can be simplified

Tell that to the earthworms.

Neither the cell mechanisms

Tell that to the sea sponges.

Oct 10, 2015
P Ward and J Kirschvink in their book A New History of Life sees birds as twice made.
I suggest that birds came before dinos as it was necessary to survive the Earth surface conditions. Then they became dinos AND birds.

Oct 10, 2015
Why don't we see birds in the fossil record before dinosaurs? Why do you think that it was necessary for life to survive? What were the conditions that required it and what evidence is there for it? Why did any nonbird animals survive then? Why don't we see any transitional fossils of birds into dinosaurs?

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