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Fossil of 62-Million-Year-Old Ancient Seabird Discovered from New Zealand

Gerald Mayr, of the Frankfurt-based National History Museum, believes that the finding is, “truly amazing and unexpected”.

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Updated:September 20, 2019, 1:59 PM IST
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Fossil of 62-Million-Year-Old Ancient Seabird Discovered from New Zealand
Representative image. (Image: Reuters)

About 62 million years ago, dinosaurs left behind a species of bird that must have soared through the skies. Scientists recently came across fossils of the same bird in North Canterbury, New Zealand. It was reported that the fossil, which was found belonged to an ancient family of duge seafaring birds called as Protodontopteryx ruthae. In fact, this finding is being considered as one of the oldest birds to have ever identified in the world by scientists.

Mashable reported that the newly-discovered bird is a bony-toothed seabird hailing from the Pelagornithids family. Its wings span for over five metres. It has the biggest flying birds for its descendants and is itself, roughly about the size of an average gull. However, it stands out from the rest of its family members for its bony, tooth-like projections on the contours of its beak. Scientists think that the ancient bird used the teeth to prey on fish and soft-bodied creatures like squids.

Gerald Mayr, of the Frankfurt-based National History Museum, believes that the finding is, “truly amazing and unexpected”. “Not only is the fossil one of the most complete specimens of a pseudo-toothed bird, but it also shows a number of unexpected skeletal features that contribute to a better understanding of the evolution of these enigmatic birds,” he told The Guardian.

The last pelagornithid species went extinct about 2.5 million years ago. This is long before modern humans evolved.

Interestingly, the seabird has been uncovered from the same Waipara Greensand site where the 1.6-meter-high giant penguin was discovered. Amateur paleontologist Leigh Love, thrilled to have found the fossilized bones of the pelagornithid, fondly named it, Protodontopteryx ruthae after his wife, Ruth. The fossil, along with the latest discovery, is being prepped to be showcased in an exhibition at the Canterbury Museum later this year.

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