Scientists were surprised to find the bird foot and its extremely long toe trapped in 99 million-year-old amber from Myanmar, dating from the Cretaceous period.
Amber traders originally thought the foot belonged to a lizard that had been trapped and preserved in the sticky tree resin.
“Although I’ve never seen a bird claw that looks like this before, I know it’s a bird. Like most birds, this foot has four toes, while lizards have five” Lida Xing of the China University of Geosciences in Beijing said in a press release.
Xing is lead author of a paper on the find published Thursday in the journal Current Biology.
The research team scanned the foot and created a 3D model to compare to both living and extinct birds. These efforts just proved how utterly weird the foot is.
“There is no bird with a similar morphology that could be considered a modern analog for this fossil bird,” said co-author Jingmai O’Connor from the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Oddities in amber
The mystery bird is now named Elektorornis chenguangi, with “elektorornis” meaning “amber bird.” It was likely smaller than a sparrow and may’ve used the long toe to pull insects and other delectables out of tree trunks.
“It shows that ancient birds were way more diverse than we thought,” said Xing. “They had evolved many different features to adapt to their environments.”
- Scientists use robotics to animate model of nearly 290-million-year old fossil
- 180-million-year-old 'sea monster' found with skin and blubber
- 310-million-year-old lizard footprints found in the Grand Canyon, 'oldest ... ever discovered'
- 130-million-year-old insects trapped in amber right when they were born
- 100-million-year-old Hagfish complete with slime kit discovered
- Five Million Year Old Pig-Like Creatures Discovered in Tennessee's Gray Fossil Site
- 5-Million-Year-Old Pig-Like Creatures Discovered in Tennessee's Gray Fossil Site
- Head-on collision in Long Beach leaves 36-year-old reporter dead
- How an SMU dinosaur hunter's 72-million-year-old sea monster got to the Smithsonian
- Kurt Angle's 16-year-old Niece Abducted in Pennsylvania, Police Issue Amber Alert