|The teeth of Sulcavis geeorum. The image |
is a close u of the complete skeleton
Yet a fossil discovery from China is shows that some groups actually held onto their dentures for tens of millions of years after Archaeopteryx.
Sulcavis geeorum was unearthed in 121 million year rocks in the Liaoning Province of China, a region famous for its well preserved fossils of complete Cretaceous ecosystems. Part of a group of birds known as the enantiornithines, it had distinct teeth which showed up as black striations in the fossilised jaw. Sulcavis, and possibly its close relatives, had kept their teeth in order to deal with a completely new diet of meat and hard-shelled crustaceans.
|A reconstruction of the 121 million year old |
toothed bird Sulcavis geeorum from Liaoning, China
Today, birds are incredibly diverse and some of the most beautiful creatures on Earth. Yet their early evolutionary history is poorly understood, partially due to a lack of fossils, partially due to the incomplete nature of those fossils. Fossils of giant, powerful predatory avians, the phosphorhacids, show that, at one point, birds ruled the planet. Yet their long and rich story started with the strange, early forms of Sulcavis and Archaeopteryx.