An international team of Spanish paleontologists and Natural History Museum of Los Angeles Director of the Dinosaur Institute, Dr Luis M Chiappe, studied the exceptionally preserved wing of a 125-million-year-old bird found in limestone in Las Hoyas, central Spain.
As well as the bones seen in the fossil, the tiny wing of this ancient bird reveals details of a complex network of muscles that, in modern birds, controls the adjustments of the wing’s main feathers, which allow birds to fly with precision.
“The anatomical match between the muscle network preserved in the fossil and those that characterise the wings of living birds strongly indicates that some of the earliest birds were capable of aerodynamic prowess like many present-day birds,” said Dr Chiappe, the investigation’s senior scientist.
“It is very surprising that despite being skeletally quite different from their modern counterparts, these primitive birds show striking similarities in their soft anatomy,” said Guillermo Navalón, a doctorate candidate at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom and lead author of the report.
“The new fossil provides us with a unique glimpse into the anatomy of the wing of the birds that lived amongst some of the largest dinosaurs,” said Chiappe. “Fossils such as this are allowing scientists to dissect the most intricate aspects of the early evolution of the flight of birds.”