Fossil reveals a bird with long, flashy tail feathers that lived 120 million years ago | Chicago News

Modern sunbirds also have long tail feathers. (Jason Wextine / Field Museum)

(CNN) — Scientists discovered fossils of birds that lived 120 million years ago. And it certainly had talent, including an unusually long tail feather. According to new research, these flashy wings probably didn’t help the bird achieve aerodynamic flight, but they may have helped him find a companion.

Fossils were found in the Jehol Biota in northeastern China (an ecosystem from 133 to 120 million years ago), and their sediments contained a treasure trove of fossil discoveries, including examples of ancient flights. .. Researchers called it Yuanchu Abyss after the mythical Chinese bird Yuanchu.

Birds were probably comparable in size to modern blue jays. However, the tail reached more than 150% of the body length.A study published in the journal on Thursday Current biology..

“I’ve never seen such a combination of different types of tail feathers in fossil birds,” said Jinmai O’Connor, a research author and paleontologist at the Field Museum in Chicago, in a statement. O’Connor is a deputy curator of fossil reptiles at the Negowny Integrated Research Center at the Field Museum.

“It had a fan of short wings on the base, then two very long plumes,” O’Connor said. “The long feathers are dominated by a central spine called Rakis, and finally feathers grow. The combination of a short-tailed fan and two long feathers is called a pintail, and is used by modern birds such as sunbirds and quetzals. You can see it. “

According to O’Connor, Yuan Chuabis is likely to have flown like Quetzal, a forest-dwelling bird with the least ability to fly. The pintail wings, despite their light weight, were large enough to generate considerable drag.

Short tails are associated with birds that live in harsh environments, such as seabirds, that rely on their ability to fly as a survival skill. More elaborate tails are common in forest-dwelling birds.

“This new discovery clearly shows how the interaction between nature and sexual selection shaped the bird’s tail from early history,” Wang Min, a research author and researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said in a statement. I will. ” “Yuanchuavis is the first recorded outbreak of pintails in Enantiornithes, the most successful group of Mesozoic birds.”

This graphic shows the discovery of new fossils and their well-preserved feathers. (King / Field Museum)This graphic shows the discovery of new fossils and their well-preserved feathers. (King / Field Museum)

Scientists have recognized two different tail structures from other enantiornithes that are combined in Yuan Chuabis.

“While the tail fan works aerodynamically, the elongated central pair of plumes is used for displays that together reflect the interaction of natural and sexual selection,” Wang said. ..

Animals not only adapt to survive, but also to help their particular species survive. In this case, Yuan Chuabis has developed a tail feather that impedes its ability to fly and makes it more noticeable to predators. According to O’Connor, this finding highlights how important sexual selection is in the process of evolution.

“Scientists call the big flashy tail-like trait an” honest signal. ” Because it is harmful. So if the animal with it can survive with that handicap, it’s a sign that it’s really suitable, “O’Connor said. “A female bird sees a male with a funny tail wing and thinks,’Dan, if you can survive with such a ridiculous tail, you must have a really good gene.'”

Birds that flap their wings tend to be male. They are so focused on maintaining their wings that they do not take good care of their offspring. The flashy wings also attract predators towards the nest. But more mediocre women stick to their chicks and take care of them.

Despite the fact that the Enantiornithes first prospered, they did not survive the extinction event that wiped out dinosaurs 66 million years ago. Most likely due to the fact that they lived in a burning forest after the asteroids collided, or that they were not adapted to grow rapidly.

“Understanding why living birds are the most successful group of vertebrates on land today is a very important evolutionary question, because it allowed live birds to succeed. Whatever it is, all other birds and dinosaurs are extinct, “O’Connor said.

Fossils do not always reveal how sexual selection forms seeds.

“This new fossil bird’s well-preserved tail feathers provide great new information about how sexual selection shaped the bird’s tail from an early stage,” said the king.

“The complexity found in the wings of Yuan Chuabis is related to one of the reasons why living birds are so diverse, as living birds can be separated into different species simply by different wings and different songs. “We do,” said O’Connor. “It’s amazing that Yuan Chuabis can hypothesize that such feather complexity may have already existed in the Early Cretaceous.”

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Fossil reveals a bird with long, flashy tail feathers that lived 120 million years ago | Chicago News

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