Photos by Lida Xing and R.C. McKellar
Ancient bird probably hatched ready to fly
A recent story by Hanneke Meijer, in the Guardian online newspaper, tells how the discovery of a hundred-million-year-old specimen, wonderfully preserved in amber, shows how birds of yesteryear hatched fully prepared for takeoff. Paleontologists from China, Canada and the US, describe in a new paper a hatchling bird that became entrapped in sticky conifer resin about 99 million years ago, in Burma. Superficially, the bird looked like modern birds, that is, feathered and a good flyer. However, the anatomy of their shoulder girdle is different, they were toothed and the fingers in their wing had claws. The new specimen is nicknamed Belone. Belone measures 6 cm. from head to tail, and consists of a skull, neck, wings and feet. The rest of the body eroded away but left a thin trace in the fossilized resin. Careful lighting reveals an outline of this bird with outstretched wings, open beak, feet drawn up and claws out as if ready to pounce (see artist's rendering below).
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