A team of researchers has found and identified the oldest fossil of a modern bird. It was found in a limestone quarry located in the proximity of the Belgian-Dutch border, and it has an age of 66.7 million years, according to initial tests.
The age of the fossil infers that the creature roamed the world during the era of dinosaurs before they went extinct due to an asteroid that would crash into the surface of the planet in less than two million years.
Fossils in such a pristine state are quite rare and difficult to find. The skull of the bird is almost complete, and it features many of the traits that can be spotted among modern chickens and birds with bills. This trait infers that the bird may have been quite close to the ancestors of chickens and ducks.
Scientists found the most ancient fossil of modern bird
Researchers have classified the fossil under the name of Asteriornis, but it is also known under the less formal nickname of Wonderchicken. The scientific name has been inspired by Asteria, the Greek goddess of stars that fall.
To determine the location of the fossil, the scientists employed a high power X-ray CT scanner and were surprised by the shallow depth at which it was found. One of the experts who were involved in the project has stated that it is one of the best-conserved fossils in the world. He also mentioned that it is an essential part of world history since it can offer valuable information about the ancestors of modern birds.
Many scientists have been fascinated by the diversity of modern bird species. While it is inferred that the number of species bloomed near the end of the dinosaur domination, many details remain shrouded in mystery due to the lack of conclusive fossils before the asteroid impact. The team has published an in-depth paper in a scientific journal.