The oldest known bird of the modern type was a relative of the chicken and goose

European and American paleontologists have discovered during excavations in Belgium, the oldest true bird (Neornithes), write in Nature. Discovery has received the name Asteriornis maastrichtensis. Ppredpolagaetsya that she 66,8–66,7 million years. Probably Asteriornis belonged to the “kurulusunun” (Galloanserae) — the superorder, which includes units of galliformes and Anseriformes.

Real birds (Neornithes) is one of the most numerous groups of vertebrates, and its representatives inhabit all continents, including Antarctica. But the origin of this taxon very little is known. Bird bones are poorly preserved, as they are often very thin. Known of the finds belong either to the birds in the broad sense (this group includes Archaeopteryx), or to the existing taxa, as representatives of primitive Neornithes from the Mesozoic, in fact, was not known until now.

The situation changed when an international team of paleontologists led by Daniel Field (Daniel J. Field) from Cambridge University found in Belgian limestone quarry Remontas in Maastricht tier (the age of the deposits 66,8–66,7 million years), almost complete skull of unknown birds and fragments of bones of its hind limbs — femoral, Galena-tarsal and others.

Scientists have measured the distance between key points of the feet bones. According to these measurements, during the life of the bird is weighed 394 grams. A computed tomography of the skull showed that the animal’s beak structure was the same as in modern birds: no teeth, no coronoid bone of the lower jaw, and so on.

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