Name that (fossilised) beast!

mystery beast (photo by PG Tickle)

This might be a tricky one…

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Name that (fossilised) beast!

  1. Mark Edon

    Confuciusornis?

  2. Damn! Well, guessed the same on facebook

  3. Excellent guesses – it’s an example of the Mesozoic bird, Confuciusornis sanctus. This is a particularly interesting species for evolutionary biologists due to it’s vast age (~125 m.y.a) and derived avian morphology that contrasts with the skeletons of the even older Archaeopteryx specimens. For example, you can see in the photo that the humerus is broadened and the sternum has a keel, adaptations presumably important in the evolution of flight.

    C. sanctus does retain more primitive characters such as gastralia (ribs in the belly wall) that are more usually found in crocs, Sphenodon (and pterosaurs and some dinosaurs), and act in respiration. Modern birds lack this feature, having a highly derived sternal-rib breathing pump (bit of self-promotion: for more details see http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1420-9101.2012.02465.x/abstract)

    This particular fossil is kept in the Senckenberg collection, Frankfurt, Germany.

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