by Laura Geggel, Staff Writer | December 11, 2015 03:30pm ET
Modern birds — from the soaring eagle to the tiny hummingbird — share a common ancestor that lived about 95 million years ago in South America, a new study finds.
That feathery common ancestor laid the groundwork for its innumerable descendants. When an asteroid hit the Yucatan Peninsula about 66 million years ago, it killed off the nonavian dinosaurs. So-called modern birds in South America survived and rapidly diversified, the researchers said.
These modern South American birds then moved to other parts of the world via land bridges (even fliers need stopovers on land), diversifying during periods of global cooling, the researchers found.