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Wonder chicken, a fossil that can reveal the origin of modern birds

Madrid /  They affectionately call it “wonder chicken” and it is the oldest fossil of a modern bird that can help clarify why the birds survived the late Cretaceous mass extinction event, while the large dinosaurs failed, according to a study it publishes by Nature.

The fossil has an almost complete skull that dates back about 66.7 million years, at least a million years before the impact of the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs, according to a statement from the University of Cambridge.

The remains were found in a quarry near the Belgian-Dutch border, making Asteriornis maastrichtensis (its scientific name) the first modern dinosaur-era bird found in the northern hemisphere.

At first glance, the fossil didn’t look like much, “just a few small fragments of paw bone” sticking out of a chunk of rock the size of a deck of cards, but drawing the team’s interest.

The researchers looked inside the rock using high-resolution scans and saw “the find of a lifetime,” the statement said, an almost complete bird skull 66.7 million years old.

Common traits of birds similar to chickens and ducks

A detailed analysis of the fossil skull, which is “clearly recognizable as a modern bird,” showed that it combines many common features of chicken-like and duck-like birds, “suggesting” that it is close to the last common ancestor of that two. types of birds.

Study lead researcher Daniel Field of the University of Cambridge recalls that the moment he first saw him inside the rock was “the most exciting” of his scientific career.

And it is “one of the best preserved fossil bird skulls of any time and anywhere in the world. “We almost had to pinch ourselves when we saw it,” he added, “knowing that it was from such an important time in Earth’s history.”

Although modern birds are known to have emerged sometime towards the end of the dinosaur age, there is “very little fossil evidence of them until after the asteroid hit,” study co-author Albert Chen explained in the note.

So this fossil “provides our first direct insight into what modern birds were like during the early stages of their evolutionary history,” he added.

The fact that Asteriornis was found in Europe is another circumstance that makes the discovery so “extraordinary” since the fossil remains of birds from the late Cretaceous in that region are “extremely scarce”.

Their discovery provides some of the “earliest evidence that Europe was a key area” in the early evolutionary history of moderator birds, noted John Jagt of the Museum of Natural History in Maastricht, the Dutch city near which the fossil was found. (March 23, 2020, EFE / PracticaEspañol)

(Automatic translation)

The related video news (2016):


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Question 1
En el texto se dice que...
unos científicos han descubierto una especie de ave la cual está en peligro de extincición.
el hallazgo de ese fósil podría ayudar a aclarar el porqué las aves no se extinguieron a finales del Cretácico.
los científicos descartan que ese fósil pueda dar más información relacionada con la evolución de las aves modernas.
Question 2
Según el texto...
ese cráneo no se parece en nada ni al de una gallina ni al de un pato.
el cráneo hallado tiene algunos rasgos que son parecidos a los de una gallina.
ese cráneo es totalmente idéntico al de una gallina.
Question 3
Según el texto, ese fósil es importante...
porque es el primero que se halla en Europa.
ya que pertenece al primer ave que existió en el planeta.
ya que da información relevante sobre cómo fue la evolución de las aves modernas.
Question 4
Según el texto...
el cráneo de ese ave no está completo.
los científicos descartan por completo que las aves aparecieran poco antes de que los dinosaurios se extinguieran.
casi todos los fósiles de aves han sido hallados en el continente europeo.
Question 5
Cuando se dice "casi tuvimos que pellizcarnos cuando lo vimos" se refiere a que...
estaban muy seguros de lo que estaban viendo.
casi no se creían lo que estaban viendo.
ninguno de ellos se sorprendieron de lo que estaban viendo.
Question 6
En el vídeo se dice que...
esas aves ya podían emitir sonidos complejos.
el fósil que hallaron no revela información sobre cómo se comunican las aves entre sí.
los restos hallados se encuentran en muy mal estado.
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