Sep 26, 2018 by
Paleontologists have found the remains — the well-preserved complete skeleton and feathers — of a short-tailed bird that lived 127 million years ago (Early Cretaceous epoch) in northeastern China.
The ancient bird, dubbed Jinguofortis perplexus, had a body mass of 250 g, a wing span of 27.5 inches (70 cm), and a unique combination of traits.
“This fossil bird had a jaw with small teeth like their theropod dinosaur relatives,” explained Dr. Zhonghe Zhou, a researcher in the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
“It also had a short bony tail ending in a compound bone called a pygostyle (that evolved after the earliest known bird, Archaeopteryx); gizzard stones showing that it mostly ate plants; and a third finger with only two bones in it (unlike other early birds).”
Based on its skeleton and feathers, Jinguofortis perplexus probably flew a bit differently than birds do today.
“In flying birds, the shoulder, which experiences high stress during flight, is a tight joint between unfused bones,” the paleontologists said.
“In contrast, Jinguofortis perplexus preserves a shoulder girdle where the major bones of the shoulder, the shoulder blade (scapula) and the coracoid, are fused to one another, forming a scapulocoracoid.”