A reconstruction by well-known dinosaur artist Michael Skrepnick shows Vegavis in the immediate foreground with a duckbill dinosaur (hadrosaur) in the background. Copyright Michael Skrepnick 2005.
One half of the Vegavis iaai specimen (left) and the volumetric rendering from the computed tomography (CT) data (right).
Newly published North Carolina State University research into the evolution of birds shows the first definitive fossil proof linking close relatives of living birds to a time when dinosaurs roamed the earth.
Research by paleontologist Dr. Julia A. Clarke, an assistant professor in the marine, earth and atmospheric sciences department at NC State, and colleagues provides unprecedented fossil proof that some close cousins to living bird species coexisted with dinosaurs more than 65 million years ago. Information from a new avian species called Vegavis iaai indicates that these birds lived in the Cretaceous period and must have survived the Cretaceous/Tertiary (K/T) mass extinction event that included the disappearance of all other dinosaurs.
Analysis of fresh evidence from computed tomography (CT) scans of the fossil – which uncovered new bones deep within the rock matrix – and recovery of latex peels made of the specimen just after its discovery in Antarctica in 1992 revealed its importance to avian evolution and that it represented a new species. This partial skeleton is the most complete specimen from the Cretaceous to be found to have its evolutionary relationship to a living bird group. These new data show Vegavis is within the group Anseriformes, which includes ducks and geese.
Dr. Julia Clarke | EurekAlert!
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