A very early bird

This is the fossilised wing of a newly discovered species, Alcmonavis poeschli, embedded in limestone in Germany.

The creature is a proto-bird, essentially a flying dinosaur descendant, from the Jurassic period, some 150 million years ago.

It’s discovery, by researchers led by palaeontologist Oliver Rauhut from Germany’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, is very important. A. poeschli is only the second species of proto-bird from the period ever discovered. The other, of course, is the famous Archaeopteryx.

“At first, we assumed that this was another specimen of Archaeopteryx,” Rahut says. 

“There are similarities, but after detailed comparisons with Archaeopteryx and other, geologically younger birds, its fossil remains suggested that we were dealing with a somewhat more derived bird.

“The wing muscles indicate a greater capacity for flying.” 

The new species is formally described in the journal eLife.

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