Scientists have discovered the remains of a new species of prehistoric bird which live more than 90 million years ago, in the Canadian Arctic. They believe that the bird’s existence is evidence that a warming event took place in the Cretaceous period.
Scientists have published the findings of their study in the journal Scientific Reports, which reveals that the fossils date to the Turonian age, a period that lasted between 93.9 to 89.9 million of years ago. The remains of this new species of birds are among the oldest avian fossils ever found in the Arctic. Researchers who discovered the fossils decided to name the species of bird Tingmiatornis artica, which means those that fly in the Inuktitut language of the northern regions of Canada.
John Tarduno, the lead author of the study and a professor of Earth sciences at the University of Rochester, has stated that the prehistoric bird would resemble a cross between diving bird like the cormorant and a large seagull. Although the fossils did not have any teeth, scientists believe that the prehistoric bird would have likely had some as they would be used to eat the large carnivorous fish found in the Arctic at the time of its existence.
Scientists are using the fossil to determine its ecosystem by comparing with others from the region. They hope to have enough data to build a picture of the distribution of species as well their food chains. Furthermore, the existence of this prehistoric bird at the Arctic is evidence that the region experienced hyper-warm intervals because its food sources would not have been able to survive in the region. Tarduno even goes as far as to speculate that the Canadian Arctic had a similar climate as today’s Florida, with a variety of species living in the water such as various fish, turtles, and reptiles.
The discovery of the prehistoric bird fossil in rock layers above basalt lava which is produced by volcanoes erupting periodically. Thus, scientists believe that Arctic volcanoes led to a greenhouse effect which caused the climate to warm to such a degree in that period.
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Image credit: University of Rochester