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Fossil Bird

July 5, 2006

Researchers have found an ancestor of modern birds that walked with dinosaurs.


When ducks walked with dinosaurs. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

All modern birds—from robins to owls to ostriches—may have evolved from duck-like ancestors. An international team of paleontologists working in China recently discovered five new fossils of a 110-million-year-old ancestor of modern birds, called Gansus yumenensis. Jerry Harris of Dixie State College in Utah says it probably looked and acted like today’s loons and grebes.

JERRY HARRIS (Dixie State College, Utah):
It has several similar features in its skeleton that show that it had a similar lifestyle of diving under water and swimming, and it also had webbed feet. And some of our specimens that had the skin preserved show that it had webbing all the way to the ends of its toes.

He says Gansus is probably not a direct ancestor of modern birds—more like a super-great granduncle. He adds that it may have been a tasty dish for dinosaurs.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.