July 15, 2007 | David F. Coppedge

Roadrunner and Largest Flying Bird Described from Fossils

A bird with a 23-foot wingspan was described in the BBC News.  At an estimated 155 pounds, this bird probably had to jump from a height to get airborne and likely rode on thermals.  The article says the bird rivalled in size some light airplanes.  A diagram shows the Argentinean giant with wings upwardly stretched extending some twice the height of a man.
    News@Nature reported tracks from a roadrunner-like bird from China dated 110 million years old, some 50 million years earlier than any similar species.  The bird had two forward-facing toes, and two backward-facing toes – a condition called zygodactyly.  Wading, perching and gliding birds from the period are known, but “we know of nothing as large, as fast, or with the same foot structure as the one that made these tracks.”  It was a surprise to find a zygodactyl this far back, since modern roadrunners are assumed to have evolved in the last million years.  “Not expecting to find a zygodactyl bird in rocks that old, researchers originally thought the footprints belonged to a shorebird,” the article said.  It then stated that this fossil bird must have evolved zygodactyly independently of the modern roadrunners.

Is there any living creature from modern times that has a claim to being “better evolved” than fossilized forms from the past?  Evolutionary claims are for the birds (beep, beep, aoogah).

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Categories: Amazing Facts, Birds, Fossils

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