In the beginning, birds were therapod dinosaurs, meaning they were feathered reptiles. Then, after 165-150 million years, they presumably evolved into prehistoric proto-birds. Then it was time for some aerodynamic changes such as lightweight, hollow bones, winged bodies, and feathers arrangement.
Recently, researchers found a Wonderchicken’s skull buried in Maastricht, the Netherlands. The official name is Asteriornis, but it mostly goes by the nickname. The word Asteriornis is a mix between the Greek word for bird and Asteria, a mythological Greek titan associated with falling stars.
Scientists jumped to the conclusion that Europe was a cradle of modern bird evolution. It’s the only one found so far, but until further discovery, the conclusion could stand. Until now, Asteriornis was considered an extinct genus from the Late Cretaceous of Belgium, but the Netherlands and Belgium aren’t too far apart so, this might consolidate the cradle theory.
The ancestor of modern birds
About 66.7 million years ago, just when the famous asteroid took the dinosaurs to extinction, the Wonderchicken was thriving. Somewhere at the frontier between prehistoric and modern birds, the skull proves that the Wonderchicken was a fusion between a chicken and a duck. I belonged to the group Galloanserae to which chickens, ducks, and quails belong.
The most important question is how did this bird survive the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event? Paleontologist Daniel J. Field of Cambridge University believes that the Wonderchicken “influenced the persistence of [modern] birds through the end-Cretaceous mass extinction.”
His theory says that it survived because it lived on the ground near the beach and that it was small in size. The water kept it safe from the devastating volcano explosions. Its size kept it safe from the dust rain, and it also did not need for large amounts of food. The lack of food had a big role in extinction, where oversized dinosaurs couldn’t find enough.