26 October 2016
A parrot fossil has been unearthed in Siberia - the furthest north one of these birds has ever been found, a study reports.
A single parrot bone was discovered in the Baikal region and dates to between 16 and 18 million years ago.
It suggests that the birds, which today mainly inhabit tropical and sub-tropical regions, may once have been widespread in Eurasia.
It is also the first time a fossil parrot has been found in Asia.
The research is published in the journal Biology Letters.
The study's author Dr Nikita Zelenkov, from the Borissiak Paleontological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, said he was surprised by the discovery.
"No-one before has ever found evidence of their presence in Siberia," he said. Image copyright Alexander Sizov Image caption The parrot bones were unearthed from a site in the east of Siberia
The researchers discovered the ancient parrot's remains at Tagay Bay in the east of Siberia.
It was likely a very modern-looking small bird, around the size of budgerigar. "We were excavating all kinds of animals there, and mostly they were rodents, rhinos, cats, hippos and others," said Dr Zelenkov.
"But this locality is also interesting because it preserves a rich community of fossil birds. But no exotic birds have been found there before."
Dr Zelenkov discovered part of a bone called a tarsometatarsus, which is found in the lower leg of birds. After comparing it with other species, he discovered that it belonged to a small parrot.
"Unfortunately, this find is not good enough to reconstruct the appearance or lifestyle of this parrot, but we can see that it was rather similar to modern ones. So it was likely a very modern-looking small bird, around the size of a budgerigar."
It shares features with another earlier fossil parrot bone in Germany, reported in a study published in 2010, belonging to a species called Mogontiacopsitta miocaena.