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Let’s Just Call It Wonderchicken

April 3, 2020
Wonderchicken skull, via University of Cambridge

What’s a treasure in the world of paleontology? Well, a perfectly preserved bird skull comes pretty close to being the best treasure for paleontologists, we bet. That’s precisely what Daniel Field, a paleontologist with the University of Cambridge in England, discovered when he scanned a chunk of rock found back in 2000. The fossil is estimated to be about sixty-eight million years old and is probably one of the earliest known fossils that is part of the bird family tree. Scientists believe it could be the ancestor to the modern-day bird, a species that survived an asteroid that destroyed many other species in the bird family.

Artist’s impression via University of Cambridge

The bird in this particular fossil, dubbed Wonderchicken, is presumed to be one such bird. The skull indicates that the bird was a combination of a chicken and a duck, which means the general structure of both of these birds has remained unchanged over the years. What are experts hoping to find from the fossil? The features that helped the bird survive mass extinction events! And in case you are wondering, the scientific name for the bird is asteriornis maastrichtensis.