Date: May 2, 2018
Source: Yale University
Researchers have pieced together the three-dimensional skull of an iconic, toothed bird that represents a pivotal moment in the transition from dinosaurs to modern-day birds.
Ichthyornis dispar holds a key position in the evolutionary trail that leads from dinosaurian species to today's avians. It lived nearly 100 million years ago in North America, looked something like a toothy seabird, and drew the attention of such famous naturalists as Yale's O.C. Marsh (who first named and described it) and Charles Darwin.
Yet despite the existence of partial specimens of Ichthyornis dispar, there has been no significant new skull material beyond the fragmentary remains first found in the 1870s. Now, a Yale-led team reports on new specimens with three-dimensional cranial remains -- including one example of a complete skull and two previously overlooked cranial elements that were part of the original specimen at Yale -- that reveal new details about one of the most striking transformations in evolutionary history.