Survival of the SEXIEST! Fancy tail feathers on a newly-discovered species of peacock-like bird that lived 120 million years ago suggest it prioritised finding a mate over flying

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  • Experts report new species called Yuanchuavis komposaura from fossil remains
  • The bird had tail feathers that were more than 150 percent of its body length
  • why. Kompasaura was part of an extinct group that was wiped out along with the dinosaurs

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An ancient bird that lived 120 million years ago had fancy tail feathers like those of a peacock, a study of fossil remains suggests.

Researchers in China and the US report the discovery of Yuanchuavis kompasura, a bird precursor with broad wings that may have helped it attract a mate.

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Its remains, including the well-preserved tail feathers, were taken from a 120-million-year-old deposit of the Jehol Biota in northeastern China, known as the ‘Jurassic Park’ of China.

why. Kompasaura was a small bird, roughly the size of a blue jay, but its wide pair of tail feathers reached over 150 percent of its body length.

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While its tail feathers helped it find a mate, they did not make flight very easy, meaning it had to avoid open environments due to the risk of being unable to fly away from predators.

Artist’s impression of the Mesozoic bird Yuanchuavis kompasaura, as it may have appeared 120 million years ago. Researchers named it Yuanchuawis after Yuanchu, a bird from Chinese mythology. At its base was a fan of short wings and then two extremely long wings.

What were enantiornithines?

The most abundant and diverse bird group of prehistoric times was the enantiornithines.

Almost all had teeth and clawed fingers on each wing, but were more like modern birds in all other respects.

The mass extinction event led to the extinction of the dinosaurs about 66 million years ago.

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Y. kompsoura belonged to an extinct group called Enantiornithines, which looked a lot like modern birds except they had teeth and clawed fingers on each wing.

Enantiornithines disappeared in the mass extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs about 66 million years ago.

The study authors named the new species Yuanchuavis after Yuanchu, a bird from Chinese mythology.

‘We’ve never seen this combination of different types of tail feathers in a fossil bird before,’ said study author Jingmai O’Connor, a paleontologist at the Field Museum in Chicago.

‘It had a fan of short wings at the base and then two extremely long wings. Long wings dominated the central spine, called the rachis, and then fell off at the end.

‘The combination of two long wings with a short tail fan is called a pintail, we see it in some modern birds such as sunbirds and quetzals.’

According to the researchers, the elaborate ornaments represent a battle between survival and sexual selection at an early point in natural history.

Tail feathers would have been more noticeable to a potential mate, but worse in flight or more noticeable to their predators.

(a) Photograph of the Yuanchuavis Kompsosaura fossil from the Jehol Biota in northeastern China and (b) Line drawing of the remains

(a) Photograph of the Yuanchuavis Kompsosaura fossil from the Jehol Biota in northeastern China and (b) Line drawing of the remains

The cranial anatomy of the species.  Y. kompsoura belonged to an extinct group called Enantiornithines, which looked like modern birds except they had teeth and clawed fingers on each wing

The cranial anatomy of the species. Y. kompsoura belonged to an extinct group called Enantiornithines, which looked like modern birds except they had teeth and clawed fingers on each wing

Jehol Biota

An ancient ecosystem known as the Jehol Biota existed in northeastern China about 120 million to 130 million years ago.

This included dinosaurs, mammals, early birds, fish, lizards and other fauna, with fossils found in the red areas below.

The animals lived among coniferous forests and lakes in the shadow of volcanoes.

Fossils of these animals are found in the Yixian and Jiuphotang rock formations, which are embedded in layers of volcanic material.

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‘Scientists call a feature like a big fancy tail an “honest sign” because it’s harmful,’ said O’Connor, so if an animal with it is able to survive that obstacle, it’s a sign that It really fit.”

‘A female bird looks at a male with silly cumbersome tail feathers and thinks, “Dang, if she’s able to survive even with such a ridiculous tail, she’ll have really good genes”.

why. The fossils of Kompasaura’s tail suggest that it lived in a dense forest during the early Cretaceous period (145 million years to 100.5 million years ago).

“Birds that live in harsh environments that need to be able to fly really well, such as seabirds in their open environments, tend to have short tails,” O’Connor said.

‘Birds with broad tails that are less specialized for flight tend to light up in dense, resource-rich environments such as forests.’

The densely forested environments are home to some of the most ornate birds today, such as the birds of paradise (Paradicidae).

Similarly, sexual selection has led to the diversity of colorful and even iridescent tail feathers in modern birds, many of which are aerodynamically expensive.

One possible reason for the extinction of enantiornithines, along with dinosaurs, about 66 million years ago is that they were mostly forest dwellers.

The densely forested environments are home to some of the most ornate birds today, such as the birds of paradise (Paradicidae).  picture, Sisinurus regius, bird of paradise

The densely forested environments are home to some of the most ornate birds today, such as the birds of paradise (Paradicidae). picture, Sisinurus regius, bird of paradise

Many experts believe that the meteor attack that ended the dinosaurs’ reign triggered a global fire storm that destroyed most of the world’s forests.

NS why. The discovery of Kompasura may help answer questions about birds that survived the mass extinction event.

“Understanding why living birds are the most successful group of vertebrates on land today is an extremely important evolutionary question,” O’Connor said.

‘Whatever it was that allowed them to be so successful, it probably allowed them to survive a massive meteor hitting the planet when all other birds and dinosaurs went extinct.’

The study has been published in the journal current biology.

How did the dinosaurs become extinct about 66 million years ago?

Dinosaurs ruled and…

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