125-million-year-old wing suggests primitive birds could fly, according to a scientific paper recently published in the Scientific Reports journal.
The fossilized wing, unearthed in central Spain and embedded for millions of years in a layer of Lower Cretaceous limestone has helped a scientific team resolve a puzzling question: where prehistoric birds able to fly?
The exceptionally preserved wing shows many similarities with the wings of modern-day birds, indicating that the birds of the dinosaur age were capable of flying. The most remarkable findings concern the articulated bones in the wing, as well as the soft tissue and some feather remains.
Moreover, the intricate fiber-network remodelled by the scientific team added to the list of revealing clues on the whether prehistoric birds possessed the ability to fly. In addition, the wing fossil showed that tendons and ligaments of this 125-million-year-old bird were modelled similarly to those of modern birds. The muscles lining the structure of the wing also support the thesis that prehistoric birds could fly.
“The new fossil provides us with a unique glimpse into the anatomy of the wing of the birds that lived amongst some of the largest dinosaurs”,
stated the co-author of the study, Luis Chiappe with the National History Museum of Los Angeles County.
Despite modern birds bearing many difference in skeletal structure compared to bird fossils revealed so far, the 125-million-year-old wing suggests primitive birds could fly, their skeletal structure being supported by soft anatomy similar to that of modern birds.
Birds evolved from dinosaurs as many fossils suggests. Approximately 150 million years ago this evolutionary process was already ongoing. Some tens of millions of years later, prehistoric birds had wings that were already covered in feathers. As the newly discovered Late Cretaceous wing fossil suggests, the position of the feathers could be easily controlled due to the soft anatomy supporting the wing structure.
Another question that scientists still need to answer related to how accomplished the flight actually was. Could these birds sustain long flights at high altitudes? Or were they only capable of supporting short-distance, low-altitude flights, barely steering away from the large predators of the era?
Photo Credits: Wikimedia