The position of the toes in the ratites footprints ...
Reading aloud Scientists in China have discovered at least 110 million year old fossil footprints of a mysterious runaway bird. The researchers are particularly worried about the strange shape of their feet: Two toes pointing forwards, two towards the back? unlike most birds, where three toes point forwards and one towards back. Birds with this toe arrangement are unknown from this epoch of earth history, explain the researchers around the paleontologist Martin Lockley. The researchers discovered the footprints of the bird named Shandongornipes muxiai in the Chinese province of Shandong. Based on the size and distance of the tracks, the scientists estimate that the animal moved at a speed of about eight kilometers per hour. According to the researchers, it is most likely to resemble the racing cuckoo that is now based on the North American continent. This bird, also known as the "Roadrunner", measures about half a meter and can cover only short distances on the fly, but with its long legs it reaches speeds of over twenty kilometers per hour. Also, the racing cuckoo has the toe position with two toes in front and two behind, also called zygodaktyl, whose practical use is still unknown.

Older fossil remains of ground-dwelling zygodactyles have not been previously known. From the time of Shandongornipes, paleontologists know little birds that wade in the water? Such large and fast ratites had not been suspected by researchers at this time. The scientists assume, however, that the previously discovered so far unknown species is not a direct ancestor of the race cuckoo and has developed the unusual toe position independently of each other.

Nature, Online Service, DOI: 10.1038 / news070709-12 Original work by researchers: Martin Lockley (University of Colorado, Denver) et al .: Natural Sciences, DOI: 10.1007 / s00114-007-0239-x ddp / Ulrich Dewald


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