Fossils of bony-toothed birds (Pelagornithids), an ancient family of huge seafaring birds that lived about 62 million years ago were discovered by scientists in New Zealand. According to the study published in the journal Papers in Palaeontology, the newly-discovered Protodontopteryx ruthae is known to be one of the oldest named bird species in the world. Earlier the species was thought to have evolved in the Northern Hemisphere but that theory has been upended by the discovery of the family's oldest, but the smallest member in North Canterbury, New Zealand.
Researchers said that the discovered bird species Protodontopteryx ruthae was only the size of an average gull but its descendants were some of the biggest flying birds ever, with wingspans of more than five meters. The features of the family of seabirds include bony, tooth-like projections on the edge of its beak designed for catching its prey probably fish. With evolution, its teeth turned needle-like which were likely used to catch soft-bodied prey like squid. The last animal of the species died out around 2.5 million years ago, just before modern humans evolved.
Several important scientific discoveries including ancient penguins and the world's oldest tropic bird fossil have been found in the Waipara Greensand site where the Protodontopteryx skeleton was found. It was the same team which discovered the penguins which got hold of the oldest bird species. The partial Protodontopteryx skeleton was excavated by amateur last year and named Protodontopteryx ruthae after Love's wife Ruth, researchers said. Scofield, curator at Canterbury museum said that the age of the fossilized bones suggests pelagornithids evolved in the Southern Hemisphere opposed to its earlier discovery in Northern Hemisphere. Read More...
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