Fossil birds’ eggs’ discoveries

From Discovery News:

Fossilized Eggshells Yield DNA

These ancient DNA samples could open the door to cloning long-extinct species.

Tue Mar 9, 2010 07:01 PM ET

Eggshell Stained with DNA


* For the first time, scientists have successfully extracted DNA from fossilized eggshells.
* Since many of the eggshells belonged to extinct birds, it may now be possible to learn more about mysterious prehistoric species.
* Eggs retrieved from cold climates could lead to recovery of very ancient DNA.

In a scientific breakthrough that opens a window to now-extinct animals from the prehistoric past, researchers have just successfully recovered DNA from several fossilized eggshells collected from Australia, New Zealand and Madagascar, according to a new study in the latest Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

While dinosaur eggs remain a challenge, the scientists have already collected DNA for the largest bird that ever lived — the elephant bird Aepyornis — that stood around 10 feet tall and weighed around 880 pounds. Attempts to retrieve DNA from elephant bird bone previously failed, so eggshells may prove to be a more reliable source.

In the future, everything from prehistoric penguin eggshells to those of tiny birds could be mined for DNA, particularly since few research limitations seem to exist. …

“We were able to obtain DNA from both thin (duck) and thick (elephant bird) eggshells, which suggests that thickness may not play a significant role in the recovery of DNA from eggshells,” lead author Charlotte Oskam told Discovery News.

“Furthermore, we were able to isolate DNA from eggshells from three countries, each with very different climate conditions,” added Oskam, a researcher at Murdoch University’s Ancient DNA Lab.

She and her colleagues obtained DNA from extinct moas and ducks from New Zealand, extinct elephant birds from Madagascar, and an emu and owl from Australia. The oldest eggshell belonged to an emu that lived 19,000 years ago.

See also here. And here. And here.

Impacts of introduced deer and extinct moa on New Zealand ecosystems: here.

Thinnest eggs belonged to largest Moas: here.

Early Penguin Fossils, Plus Mitochondrial Genomes, Calibrate Avian Evolution: here.

Analysis of bones, from what was once the world’s largest bird, has revealed that humans arrived on the tropical island of Madagascar more than 6,000 years earlier than previously thought — according to a study published today, 12 September 2018, in the journal Science Advances. A team of scientists led by international conservation charity ZSL (Zoological Society of London) discovered that ancient bones from the extinct Madagascan elephant birds (Aepyornis and Mullerornis) show cut marks and depression fractures consistent with hunting and butchery by prehistoric humans. Using radiocarbon dating techniques, the team were then able to determine when these giant birds had been killed, reassessing when humans first reached Madagascar: here.


11 thoughts on “Fossil birds’ eggs’ discoveries

  1. New bird fossil found in China hints at more undiscovered ancient treasures

    Washington, March 27 : A newly described bird from the Jehol Biota of northeast China suggests that scientists have only tapped a small proportion of the birds and dinosaurs that were living at that time, and that the rocks still have many secrets to reveal.

    “The study of Mesozoic birds is currently one of the most exciting fields; new discoveries continue to drastically change how we view them,” said Jingmai O’Connor, lead author of the study.

    The new bird, named “Longicrusavis houi,” belongs to a group of birds known as ornithuromorphs (Ornithuromorpha), which are rare in rocks of this age.

    Ornithuromorphs are more closely related to modern birds than are most of the other birds from the Jehol Biota.

    “Longicrusavis adds to the magnificent diversity of ancient birds, many of them sporting teeth, wing claws, and long bony tails, that recently have been unearthed from northeastern China,” said Luis Chiappe, a co-author of the study.

    Along with a bird described five years ago, Longicrusavis provides evidence for a new, specialized group of small birds that diversified during the Early Cretaceous between about 130 and 120 million years ago.

    “The new discovery adds information not only on the diversity these birds, but also on the possible lakeshore environment in which this bird lived,” said co-author Gao Ke-Qin.

    The legs of this new species are unusually long, suggesting that it spent much of its time wading in the shallows of ancient lakes.

    The name “Longicrusavis” means “long-shin bird,” highlighting this important aspect of the new specimen.

    The presence of ancient birds in this habitat suggests that modern birds might have originated from an ancestor that was adapted for life near rivers and lakes.

    Previously undescribed feather impressions from a closely related species suggest that both it and Longicrusavis had a long, fan-shaped tail.

    These are the oldest species to have such a tail, which likely increased flying performance.

    The rocks of the Yixian Formation of northeast China have produced a spectacular array of fossils in recent years including fishes, birds, mammals, invertebrates, and dinosaurs.

    These fossils are collectively are known as the Jehol Biota and they are remarkable because, in many instances, they preserve soft tissues such as feathers or hair in addition to teeth and bones.

    “The Jehol Biota never fails to stop giving, and the research to be done on these fossils is virtually endless!” said O’Connor.



  2. Rare bird fossils found near Fort Worth

    March, 30 2010

    Dallas Morning News

    Amateur paleontologist Kris Howe, 34, was just doing what he learned as a 5 year old from his father, a fossil collector. But his recent discovery is being hailed as one of the most significant in years.

    On a fossil hunt near the dam spillway at Lake Grapevine, Howe happened upon four bones that two Dallas scientists say are the oldest bird fossils found in North America.

    “My first thought was, ‘Wow, that’s pretty cool looking. I wish I knew what it was,'” Howe said of spotting the arrangement of fossils poking out from the ground, each “within centimeters” of the others.

    “It was an excitement that started with (Howe) and cascaded from there,” said scientist Tony Fiorillo, curator of earth sciences for the Dallas Museum of Nature and Science.

    The fossilized bones are about 96 million years old and from a previously undiscovered species of flightless, carnivorous bird that probably resembled a modern roadrunner, museum paleontologist Ron Tykoski said at a news conference earlier this month to announce the discovery.

    The largest fossil, a shoulder blade, measured about 2.5 inches. Fused metacarpals, or hand bones, suggested the bird had claws, and therefore teeth, to feed on other creatures in this region, a coastal area in that time.

    A section of lower leg bone was also found. Another bone could not be positively identified because of its poor condition, but the scientists speculate it could be a part of the bird’s upper wing.

    Together, the fossils are “reminiscent of what you might find in the bottom of a KFC bucket,” Fiorillo said. But they help close a gap in the evolutionary timeline of prehistoric birds, Tykoski said.

    Howe’s discovery “extends the North American record of Enantiornithes back by approximately 10 million years,” the scientists said in an academic article published in the current issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

    Enantiornithes are a group of primitive birds that also roamed Asia, Europe and South America, where more complete skeletons from 120 million to 130 million years ago have been found. Paleontologists had believed the birds arrived in North America about 65 million to 85 million years ago.

    Fiorillo said the discovery is a “best-case scenario.” Because of his experience collecting fossils, Howe, of Carrollton, was able to spot the bones and enlist Fiorillo and Tykoski’s help in identifying them before erosion washed them away. To the untrained eye, Howe said, each fossil would have looked “like just a lump of rock.”

    Fiorillo and Tykoski named the new bird species Flexomornis howei in honor of Howe.

    The fossils are the latest in a series of finds near the lake.

    In 2006, fossils from a Columbian mammoth, including a jawbone and parts of a tusk, were found along the receding shores of the lake.

    In 2005, fossilized dinosaur tracks in sandstone bedrock, first found in 1989, were rediscovered when lake levels dropped. But shortly after word of the discovery became public, someone stole two of the footprints, estimated to be 96 million years old, and damaged another print. In response, the Army Corps of Engineers filled the prints with clay, dirt and rocks so they wouldn’t be visible.

    Other fossils have also been discovered around the lake, including tracks from a meat-eating dinosaur and a smaller, birdlike dinosaur found in 1982.


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