Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Mother of a Goose! - Giant ocean-going geese with bony-teeth once roamed across SE England

29.09.2008
A 50 million year old skull reveals that huge birds with a 5 metre wingspan once skimmed across the waters that covered what is now London, Essex and Kent. These giant ocean-going relatives of ducks and geese also had a rather bizarre attribute for a bird: their beaks were lined with bony-teeth.

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, publicity@palass.org

Issued by: Forschungsinstitut und Naturmuseum Senckenberg, Senckenberganlage 25, 60325 Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Contact: Gerald Mayr
gerald.mayr@senckenberg.de
+49 69 7542 1348
Press Contact: Doris von Eiff, Press Officer
doris.voneiff@senckenberg.de
+49 69 7542 1257
+49173 54 50 196
Weitere Informationen:
http://www.senckenberg.de/root/index.php?page_id=662
http://www.senckenberg.de/root/index.php?page_id=982
http://www.palass.org
http://www.sheppeyfossils.com

Doris von Eiff | idw
Further information:
http://www.senckenberg.de

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New photocatalyst speeds up the conversion of carbon dioxide into chemical resources
29.05.2017 | DGIST (Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology)

nachricht Copper hydroxide nanoparticles provide protection against toxic oxygen radicals in cigarette smoke
29.05.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Strathclyde-led research develops world's highest gain high-power laser amplifier

The world's highest gain high power laser amplifier - by many orders of magnitude - has been developed in research led at the University of Strathclyde.

The researchers demonstrated the feasibility of using plasma to amplify short laser pulses of picojoule-level energy up to 100 millijoules, which is a 'gain'...

Im Focus: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New insights into the ancestors of all complex life

29.05.2017 | Earth Sciences

New photocatalyst speeds up the conversion of carbon dioxide into chemical resources

29.05.2017 | Life Sciences

NASA's SDO sees partial eclipse in space

29.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>