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How a 66 million-year-old toucan sliced through evolution3 min read

February 16, 2021 3 min read


How a 66 million-year-old toucan sliced through evolution3 min read

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Falkatakely Reconstruction

It is time for a formal introduction. After 68 million years, the moment we’ve all been waiting for is finally here. The Falcatakely or “bucked tooth Toucan” has entered the building. This little crow-sized bird and its almost comical beak are here to tip the scales of evolution. There is far more left to know than you would think, and there’s a lot of what we thought we knew that isn’t accurate at all.

So what is it about this odd crow-like creature that is so special?

To most, the 3.5-inch fossil of this little bird would seem insignificant. In fact, this fossil had been discovered about ten years in Madagascar, but it was shelved due to its unremarkable size. However, when the images of this bird reappeared, the researchers at Ohio University realised that they were dealing with something remarkable indeed.

They had found the fossil of a little bird from the cretaceous period. That’s just before dinosaurs and almost everything that lived went extinct. This delicate 66 million-year-old Falcatakely was definitely a rare find. It is not often that a fossil with a bird’s delicate skeleton is found, let alone its entire body including its fragile brain.

Falcatakely’s was so fragile that scientists decided to leave it embedded in rock and use digital imagery to study the Falcatakely. Then they created 3d models of the bird’s sketelon and eventually tried to imagine the bird itself.

Image result for falcatakely
Image: Ohio University

A very special find

This little bird had the most unusual beak. It had a few teeth remaining and a long sharp scythe (talwaar) like beak. That’s right! this sharp beaked dinosaur bird probably had a beak full of teeth! But it wasn’t its funny looking face or terrifying teeth that interested scientists. It was, in fact, the birds’ beak that piqued their interest.

You see the bird had a beak unlike any other of the 200 species found from that era. The Falcatakely belonged to an extinct group of birds called Enantiornithines, but unlike the rest of the birds in its group it had a beak that was only seen again millions of years later.

Graphic on an ancient bird that lived alongside dinosaurs  whose fossilised remains found in Madagas...

Owliver’s Obscure Observation: Before birds evolved into the toothless beaked creatures we know today, they had teeth for millions of years. However, the jury is still out on why? Could it be because it made flight easier? Was it because teeth made eating bird food difficult? Or was it because birds needed to preserve their eggs (teeth take longer to develop, which would mean that vulnerable eggs would need to be incubated for several months!)?

With Excerpts From: The Hindu