It may be a few weeks until the British pantomine season kicks-off, but this new fossil from the Isle of Sheppey is giving 'Mother Goose' an entirely new meaning.
Artists reconstruction of a giant pseudo-toothed bird. Picture credit Ludger Bollen, from \"Der Flug des Archaeopteryx\", Quelle+Meyer Vlg.
Described today (September 26) by Gerald Mayr, Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum, in the journal Palaeontology, the skull belongs to Dasornis, a bony-toothed bird, or pelagornithid, and was discovered in the London Clay, which lies under much of London, Essex and northern Kent in SE England. The occurrence of bony-toothed birds in these deposits has been known for a long time, but the new fossil is one of the best skulls ever found, and preserves previously unknown details of the anatomy of these strange creatures.
With a five metre wingspan, these huge birds were similar to albatross in their way of life. Albatross have the largest wingspan of any living bird, but that of Dasornis was over a meter and half greater. Despite these similarities, the latest research suggests that the closest living relatives of Dasornis and its fossil kin are ducks and geese.
"Imagine a bird like an ocean-going goose, almost the size of a small plane! By today's standards these were pretty bizarre animals, but perhaps the strangest thing about them is that they had sharp, tooth-like projections along the cutting edges of the beak" explains Gerald Mayr, expert palaeornithologist and author of the report. Like all living birds Dasornis had a beak made of keratin, the same substance as our hair and fingernails, but it also had these bony 'pseudo-teeth' "No living birds have true teeth - which are made of enamel and dentine - because their distant ancestors did away with them more than 100 million years ago, probably to save weight and make flying easier. But the bony-toothed birds, like Dasornis, are unique among birds in that they reinvented tooth-like structures by evolving these bony spikes." So why did Dasornis have these pseudo-teeth? "Its linked to diet" says Mayr, "these birds probably skimmed across the surface of the sea, snapping up fish and squid on the wing. With only an ordinary beak these would have been difficult to keep hold of, and the pseudo-teeth evolved to prevent meals slipping away."
Notes to Editors:
1. The paper, "A skull of the giant bony-toothed bird Dasornis (Aves: Pelagornithidae) from the Lower Eocene of the Isle of Sheppey" by Gerald Mayr is published in the September 26th issue of Palaeontology. Copies of the paper can be obtained on request from Doris von Eiff (details below).
2. Gerald Mayr is scientist at the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum, Frankfurt/Main, Germany.
3. Larger images of the following pictures can be obtained from Doris von Eiff (details below).
4. The fossil belongs to the collection of the Karlsruhe Natural History Museum
5. Palaeontology is published by the Palaeontological Association, a registered charity that promotes the scientific study of fossils. It is one of the world's leading learned societies in this field. For further information about the Association and its activities, or forthcoming papers of interest in Palaeontology, contact the Publicity Officer, Mark Purnell, email@example.com
Issued by: Forschungsinstitut und Naturmuseum Senckenberg, Senckenberganlage 25, 60325 Frankfurt am Main, GermanyContact: Gerald Mayr
Doris von Eiff | idw
Rutgers scientists discover 'Legos of life'
23.01.2018 | Rutgers University
Researchers identify a protein that keeps metastatic breast cancer cells dormant
23.01.2018 | Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona)
Physicists have developed a technique based on optical microscopy that can be used to create images of atoms on the nanoscale. In particular, the new method allows the imaging of quantum dots in a semiconductor chip. Together with colleagues from the University of Bochum, scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute reported the findings in the journal Nature Photonics.
Microscopes allow us to see structures that are otherwise invisible to the human eye. However, conventional optical microscopes cannot be used to image...
On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.
We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...
What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...
For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.
Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...
At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.
No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...
08.01.2018 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
23.01.2018 | Life Sciences
23.01.2018 | Earth Sciences
23.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy