The worlds oldest known modern hummingbird fossils have been discovered in Germany. The tiny skeletons are also the first modern-type hummingbird fossils ever found in the Old World. These creatures, with strikingly similar resemblances to todays hummingbirds, lived in present-day Germany more than 30 million year ago. Although hummingbirds are currently restricted to the Americas, their long-extinct Old World "look-alikes" may have helped determine the shape of some Asian and African flowers alive today. These findings appear in the 07 May, 2004 issue of the journal Science, published by AAAS, the non-profit science society.
Cinnamon hummingibrd (Amazilla rutila) feeding on Ipomoea neei (Convolvulaceae) in Mexico. The Cinnamon hummingbird measures about 11 cm (tip of beak to tip of tail) and is only slightly larger than the fossil.
[Image © J. Ferdinand]
"This is the oldest convincing record of modern-type hummingbirds," said Gerald Mayr, a zoologist from Forschungsinstitut Senckenberg, a natural history museum in Frankfurt, Germany.
The extinct European hummingbirds were endowed with long, nectar-sucking beaks and wings designed for feeding while hovering, Mayr explained.
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