Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Parrot fossil discovered in Scandinavia - Irish Research reveals

15.05.2008
Groundbreaking research supported by Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering & Technology and University College Dublin

Palaeontologists have discovered fossil remains in Scandinavia of parrots dating back 55 million years. Reported today in the current issue of the journal Palaeontology, the fossils indicate that parrots once flew wild over what is now Norway and Denmark.

Parrots today live only in the tropics and southern hemisphere, but this new research, which was supported by the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology (IRCSET) and University College Dublin (UCD), suggests that they first evolved in the North, much earlier than had been thought.

The fossil parrot was discovered on the Isle of Mors in the northwest of Denmark – far from where you’d normally expect to find a parrot. It’s a new species, officially named 'Mopsitta tanta'. However, already its nick-name is the ‘Danish Blue Parrot’, a term derived from a famous comedy sketch about a 'Norwegian Blue Parrot' in the 1970s BBC television programme ‘Monty Python’. (video link to sketch below)

The Scandinavian connection makes links to Monty Python’s notoriously demised bird irresistible, but the parallels go further. The famous sketch revolves around establishing that a bird purchased by John Cleese is a dead parrot, and in dealing with these fossils, palaeontologists were faced with the same problem.

As Dr David Waterhouse, lead author of the paper, explains: “Obviously, we are dealing with a bird that is bereft of life, but the tricky bit is establishing that it was a parrot. As with many fragile bird fossils, it is a wonder that anything remains at all, and all that remains of this early Danish parrot is a single upper wing bone (humerus). But, this small bone contains characteristic features that show that it is clearly from a member of the parrot family, about the size of a Yellow-crested Cockatoo.”

Dr David Waterhouse was funded by a UCD postgraduate scholarship from 2002 to 2006. He is currently Assistant Curator of Natural History at Norfolk Museums Service. Dr Bent Lindow was an IRCSET ‘Basic Research Grant’ scholar at UCD and the University of Copenhagen from 2004 to 2007. He is currently postdoctoral researcher in palaeontology at the Natural History Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen.

At around 55 million years old, this is very much an ex-parrot. Indeed, Mopsitta represents the oldest and most northerly convincing remains of a parrot ever to have been discovered.

Waterhouse continues: “It isn’t as unbelievable as you might at first think that a parrot was found so far north. When Mopsitta was alive, most of Northern Europe was experiencing a warm period, with a large shallow tropical lagoon covering much of Germany, South East England and Denmark. We have to remember that this was only 10 million years after the dinosaurs were wiped out, and some strange things were happening with animal life all over the planet.”

“No Southern Hemisphere fossil parrot has been found older than about 15 million years old, so this new evidence suggests that parrots evolved right here in the Northern Hemisphere before diversifying further South in the tropics later on.”

So was Danish Mopsitta “pinin’ for the fjords”? “It’s a lovely image,” says Waterhouse, “but we can say with certainty that it was not. This parrot shuffled off its mortal coil around 55 million years ago, but the fjords of Norway were formed during the last ice age and are less than a million years old.”

To view the famous 'Monty Python' sketch, please visit:
http://ie.youtube.com/watch?v=KmRdrsvdvaY

Tim Kinsella | alfa
Further information:
http://ie.youtube.com/watch?v=KmRdrsvdvaY
http://www.ircset.ie/

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology
22.06.2017 | Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft

nachricht How reliable are shells as climate archives?
21.06.2017 | Leibniz-Zentrum für Marine Tropenforschung (ZMT)

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>