Primitive Bird

Natural History Museum Vienna

Natural History Museum Vienna

Confuciusornis sanctus. Liaoning, China. 125 million years.

The primitive bird Confuciusornis is one of the paleontological treasures. In this male, the long decorative feathers are unusually well preserved.

20 million years younger than Archaeopteryx, Confuciusornis is already closer to modern birds. Its beak is toothless, and the broad surfaces for attaching flight muscles on the bones of the upper front legs show that it was already capable of active flight. Besides wing feathers, the males also had long decorative feathers – presumably to impress females.
The NHM’s technicians needed over 500 hours to remove the primitive bird from the slab of rock. The fossil remains were too delicate for sand blasting, so they had to be removed by hand in laborious detail work – over a hundred scalpel blades were used up in the process!
The lagerstätte in China is an El Dorado for paleontologists and evolutionary biologists. Over a thousand specimens of Confuciusornis were found there, providing valuable information on the tree and evolution of birds. A special feature is that not only birds but also dinosaurs with feathers have been preserved in the lake sediments. A scientific sensation – birds as direct descendants of the dinosaurs, and dinosaurs with feathers!

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  • Title: Primitive Bird
  • Rights: (c) NHM (Lois Lammerhuber)