Fossils of world’s oldest bird species found in NZ date back to 62m-yrs
Scientists have discovered fossils of one of the world’s oldest bird species in New Zealand that flourished a little after the dinosaurs perished about 62 million years ago. The fossil of a protodontopteryx was found at the Waipara Greensand site near Christchurch on New Zealand's South Island.
The partial fossils of the huge bird were found by amateur palaeontologist Leigh Love at the Waipara Greensand fossil site and was named Protodontopteryx ruthae after Love’s wife Ruth.
The fossil was identified by the same team that recently announced the discovery of a 1.6 metre-high giant penguin from the same site in Waipara. Till now the experts believed that the species evolved in the northern hemisphere as all the skeletons found up till now were from there until this one was found near the south of the equator.
Scientists are of the opinion that the ancient beaks were apt for catching fish, and soft-bodied prey like squids. They said that the last Pelagornithidae species died out around 2.5 million years ago, just before modern humans evolved. Experts also revealed that its descendants were some of the biggest flying birds ever, with wingspans in excess of 5 metres.
The findings were recently published in the journal Papers in Palaeontology.