Meet ‘Wonderchicken’: Scientists gain 67M year-feeble fossil of ‘world’s first smartly-liked bird’

By | March 19, 2020

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Researchers own realized “wonderchicken,” a 67-million-year-feeble fossilized bird they imagine is the first “smartly-liked bird.”

Known as Asterioornis, the bird was once realized in a limestone quarry attain the Belgian-Dutch border. It lived for the length of the Cretaceous length (along with dinosaurs) and had a total lot of features that are corresponding to smartly-liked-day chickens and duck-enjoy birds, suggesting to researchers it will possible be shut to or the final frequent ancestor of smartly-liked chickens and geese.

“The 2nd I first noticed what was once below the rock was once essentially the most intelligent 2nd of my scientific profession,” stated the explore’s lead author, Dr. Daniel Self-discipline, in a assertion. “This is one in every of essentially among the finest-preserved fossil bird skulls of any age, from wherever on this planet. We almost needed to pinch ourselves after we noticed it, entertaining that it was once from the kind of extremely crucial time in Earth’s history.”

Artist's impression of the Wonderchicken. (Credit: Philip Krzeminski)

Artist’s impression of the Wonderchicken. (Credit: Philip Krzeminski)


Asteriornis is believed to own weighed right underneath 1 pound, essentially essentially based mostly on its cranium and a few minute leg bone fragments. Consultants imagine that due to its diminutive stature, it possible lived attain the shore.

“This fossil tells us that early on, not lower than some smartly-liked birds were somewhat minute-bodied, floor-space birds that lived attain the seashore,” Self-discipline defined. “Asteriornis now gives us a search image for future fossil discoveries — confidently it ushers in a brand new generation of fossil finds that inspire clarify how, when and the set smartly-liked birds first developed.”

Researchers looked on the when it comes to total cranium and dated it to 66.7 million years ago, almost 1 million years earlier than the asteroid that hit the Earth and worn out when it comes to 75 p.c of all species.

Regarded as one of the most explore’s co-authors, Juan Benito, stated discovering the cranium “blew my strategies.”

“With out these reducing-edge scans, we by no blueprint would own known that we were retaining the oldest smartly-liked bird cranium on this planet,” Benito added, noting the flexibility to use CT scans helped their work greatly.

Dr Daniel Field holding a replica version of the 'Wonderchicken' skull. (Credit: University of Cambridge)

Dr Daniel Self-discipline retaining a reproduction version of the ‘Wonderchicken’ cranium. (Credit: College of Cambridge)

“The skill to CT scan fossils — enjoy we can on the Cambridge Biotomography Centre — has completely remodeled how we explore paleontology in the 21st century,” Self-discipline added.


The researchers hope that “wonderchicken” will give new gentle into how birds first emerged, largely surviving the aforementioned asteroid, and the blueprint in which they grew to become as various as they are on the present time.

“The origins of living bird diversity are shrouded in mystery — aside from entertaining that smartly-liked birds arose at some point in direction of the tip of the age of dinosaurs, we now own minute or no fossil proof of them till after the asteroid hit,” stated the explore’s co-author Albert Chen, in the assertion. “This fossil gives our earliest insist peek of what smartly-liked birds were enjoy for the length of the preliminary phases of their evolutionary history.”

The researchers published their findings in the scientific journal Nature.