The fossilized remains of a 99 million year old bird with a terribly long finger have been discovered in a piece of Burmese amber.
The researchers found that the third digit of the sparrow-shaped creature's foot was 9.8 millimeters long, about 41 percent longer than its second longest digit, and 20 percent longer than its entire lower leg, Science reported. News.
Paleontologists are not sure what purpose the extra-long finger served, but it may have helped the birds of the Cretaceous period find food in hard-to-reach places, such as holes in trees. The bird may have been an inhabitant of the trees, also using its extended claw to grab the branches.
The formation of his foot was so unique that a team that examined the fossil, led by paleontologist Lida Xing of the Chinese University of Biosciences in Beijing, decided to declare a new species, called bird Elektorornis (amber bird) chenguangi. Their findings were published in Current Biology on Thursday.
The New York Times reported that the remains had remained intact in hardened tree resin until the amber miners found the fossil in the Hukawng Valley of Burma in 2014.
Chen Guang, curator of the Humber Amber Museum in China, was first introduced and initially suspected of being an extinct lizard.
However, Mr. Chen decided to consult Ms. Xing, who specializes in Cretaceous birds and it was discovered that the small creature was related to an extinct group of birds with jagged claws called Enantiornithes, which was abundant during the Cretaceous period of 145.5 million to 66 million years. .
"I was very surprised at the time," Dr. Xing told the Times, recalling that the fossil was "definitely the claw of a bird."
Dr. Xing's team compared the size proportions of the fingers with other birds known from the Mesozoic era, which began 252 million years ago, and found that no other species had such a dramatic difference in the size of the fingers. .
The Elektorornis chenguangi became extinct with other species of its family along with non-avian dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous period.