Ancient birds come out of the egg


<a href = "" title = "Feathers revealed in a fossil aged about 125 million 39 years – which hatch The MPCM-LH-26189 sample from Los Hoyas, Spain, is preserved between two blocks of rock: (a) a "plateau" in normal light (b) Laser-stimulated Fluorescence (LSF) image combining the results of the two rock slabs, revealing brown spots around the specimen, including elongated tufts of elongated feathers associated with the neck and wings, and a single long, pale feather associated with the left wing. (c) Light image normal of the main slab The scale is 5 mm Image credit: Kaye et al. 2019 ">
Ancient birds come out of the egg

Feathers revealed in a fossil of a newborn dating back about 125 million years show that it is "out of its flowing egg". MPCM-LH-26189 from Los Hoyas, Spain, is conserved between two slabs of rock: (a) a "counter" slab under normal light (b) a laser-stimulated fluorescence (LSF) image combining the results of two slabs. This reveals brown spots around the specimen, which include elongated feather tufts associated with the neck and wings and a single long winged feather associated with the left wing. (c) Normal clear picture of the main slab. The scale is 5mm. Image credit: Kaye et al. 2019

Early Cretaceous fossil deposits dating back about 125 million years from Los Hoyas, Spain, have long been known to produce thousands of petrified fish and reptiles (Figure 1). However, researchers have discovered an extremely rare and almost complete skeleton of a chick. With the help of their own laser imaging technology, Michael Pittman from the Department of Earth Sciences of the University of Hong Kong and Thomas G Kaye of the Foundation for Scientific Advancement in the United States have determined the lifestyle of this bird 3 cm long by determining the feathers until then unknown were preserved in the fossil specimen (Fig 2).

Chickens and ducks are "early", walk and feed a few hours after hatching (Fig. 3). Pigeons and eagles are "nidicolous", remaining in the nest and frequented by their parents. Scientists have a method to determine the type of a given fossil specimen: feather examination. During the hatching of nesting birds, they have developed down and partially developed, and can stay warm and move without help from parents. "Previous studies had been sought, but no trace of feathers on the newborn at Los Hoyas, which meant that his original way of life was a mystery," says Dr. Pittman.

Pittman and Thomas Kaye have brought a new technology to the study of Los Hoyas fossils in the form of a high-powered laser. This made visible very small chemical differences in the fossils by making them fluoresce different colors, thus revealing anatomical details never seen before. They recently met with success with the first discovered fossil feather, which they dissociated from Archeopteryx, recovering the chemical signature of its fossil feather, key element of feather identification which had not been verified for about 150 years.

The new findings on the little bird finally answered the question about his way of life, as he actually had feathers at birth (Fig. 2, 4) and was therefore precocial. The feathers were made of carbon, which had a weak fluorescence under laser-stimulated fluorescence (LSF), but the background matrix shone, which made them stand out in a dark and dramatic silhouette (Fig. 2). "Previous attempts using ultraviolet light and synchrotron beams have failed to detect feathers, highlighting that laser technology alone remains a new tool in paleontology," added Tom Kaye. lead author of the study.

A bird coming out of its nest shortly after its birth, about 125 million years ago. This baby bird lived in a lake environment and was perhaps born on the ground, like other extinct enantiornithine birds. Credit: Julius T Csotonyi / HKU Vertebrate Paleontology Laboratory.

This discovery via new technology shows that some primitive birds have adopted a precocial social reproduction strategy, just like modern birds. Thus, at the time of the dinosaurs, some baby enantiornithine birds had the means to avoid the dangers of Mesozoic life, perhaps by following their parents or by moving around themselves.

"One of the feathers found was of a substantial size and retains the characteristics seen in other newborns, indicating that our newborn had flight feathers that were reasonably well developed at the time of conception. birth, "says Jesús Marugán-Lobón, co-author of Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain (Figs 2B, 4). This discovery, along with other "enlightening" discoveries, enrich our knowledge of ancient life with details that remain in the fossil record and that were never thought possible two decades ago.

Las Hoyas, Spain, is known for its spectacular fossils preserved in rocks over 126 million years old deposited in a lake environment. Credit: HKU MOOC / HKU Vertebrate Paleontology Laboratory.

Explore further:
The first fossil feather discovered did not belong to the iconic Archeopteryx bird

More information:
Thomas G. Kaye et al., A neonate newborn from enantiornithine revealed by laser-stimulated fluorescence supports pre-social nesting behavior, Scientific reports (2019). DOI: 10.1038 / s41598-019-41423-7

Journal reference:
Scientific reports

Provided by:
The University of Hong Kong


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