Found: Missing Link Between Dinosaurs and Modern Birds

Life restoration of Fukuipteryx prima. (Masanori Yoshida )

Newly Discovered Fossil Bird Fills in Gap Between Dinosaurs and Modern Fliers

by Riley Black/

Birds are ancient creatures. Every hawk, sparrow, pigeon and penguin alive today has ancestral roots dating back to the Jurassic, when the first birds were just another form of raptor-like dinosaur. Dozens of fossils uncovered and described during the last three decades have illuminated much of this deep history, but the rock record can still yield surprises. A fossil recently found in Japan is one such unexpected avian that raises questions about what else may await discovery.

The skeleton, named Fukuipteryx prima, was described by Fukui Prefectural University paleontologist Takuya Imai and colleagues today in Communications Biology. And while numerous birds of similar geologic age have been named in the past few decades, the details of these bones and where they were found have experts a-flutter.

The 120 million-year-old fossil was discovered in the summer of 2013 while searching for fossils at Japan’s Kitadani Dinosaur Quarry. “One of my colleagues at Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum spotted tiny bones in a block of siltstone,” Imai says. At the time, it wasn’t clear what creature the bones belonged to, but once the encasing rock was chipped away, the structure of the fossil became clear. The skeleton was an early bird, and an …..

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