The oldest modern bird out there, Asteriornis maastrichtensis, has been found – its fossil, which dates from the age of dinosaurs.
The fossil was nicknamed ‘Wonderchicken,’ and they found a skull that dates back from about one million years before the impact of the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs.
The team from the University of Cambridge believes that this fossil helps us in better understanding why birds survived this extinction event, while dinosaurs did not. They found almost everything out of a 66.7-million-year-old bird skull.
The skull shows that it has many features of the modern chicken- and duck-like birds, the thing that suggests that this ‘Wonderchicken’ is actually the closest common ancestor of modern chickens and ducks. They found the fossil in a quarry near the Belgian-Dutch border. The fossil does not look like it when you first look at it. It has a few small leg bone fragments. Bird fossils are very rear, so we must make the most out of it. “The ability to CT scan fossils, like we can at the Cambridge Biotomography Centre, has completely transformed how we study paleontology in the 21st century.”
Dr. Daniel Field from Cambridge’s Department of Earth Sciences stated that “The moment I first saw what was beneath the rock was the most exciting moment of my scientific career. This is one of the best-preserved fossil bird skulls of any age, from anywhere in the world.”
Even if the skull dates way back, you can recognize it from the fossil as being a modern bird. It has many features that are common to the group that includes ducks and chickens – Galloanserae. It is basically a mix between a chicken and a duck.