Scientists have discovered a new species of bird in northeast China’s Liaoning Province, according to a press conference held Thursday in the coastal city of Dalian.
The “Xinghai” bird, named after the Dalian Xinghai Palaeontological Museum, where a sample of the bird is being preserved, lived during the Lower Cretaceous period about 125 million years ago, said Ji Qiang, a researcher with the Institute of Geology under the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences.
The discovery of the new species is of great importance regarding evolutionary research, Ji said.
The sample of the bird, which was found in the city of Beipiao around the end of 2010, was well-preserved, as its skeleton was still connected together and the fossil impressions of its feathers can be seen clearly, said Wang Xuri, a postdoctoral researcher at the institute.
The distinct features of both the enantiornithine and ornithurine bird groups can be seen in the sample, Wang added, adding that the sample’s Y-shaped wishbone is a typical trait of enantiornithines, while its clavate coracoid is the same as that of ornithurines.
Enantiornithes are an extinct group of primitive birds, while ornithurines are modern birds.
The distinctive features of the Xinghai bird may provide evidence that the species is a common ancestor of enantiornithes and ornithurines, Ji said.
The Xinghai bird has a unique toe structure that is totally different from that of all other known birds, according to Wang.
Researchers at the Institute of Geology under the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences have been cooperating with bird experts from the Natural History Museum (NHM) of Los Angeles in researching the species, according to Ji.
Scientists concluded after a year of research that the Xinghai bird is a new species.
Luis Chiappe, head of NHM’s Dinosaur Institute and a renowned bird expert, agreed with the conclusion when he saw the sample of the bird at the Dalian Xinghai Palaeontological Museum in April.
China plays a leading role in research on enantiornithines and ornithurines. More than 140 types of vertebrate fossils have been found in Liaoning Province, north China’s Hebei Province and southeast China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.