Scientists have found the oldest remains of petrified chicken. Asteriornis maastrichtensis lived about 67 million years ago – at the same time that the majority of dinosaurs known to science existed. This is stated in a study by scientists from the University of Cambridge, published in the journal Nature.
During excavations in a limestone quarry, located near the border between Belgium and the Netherlands, researchers were able to find an almost full skull of an ancient bird that lived about a million years before the meteorite, which destroyed all the large dinosaurs.
A detailed analysis of the fossil showed that the animal combined many features of modern hens and ducks. This led scientists to the idea that the species to which the bird belonged could be the last common ancestor of modern chickens and ducks.
Researchers note that the bird is the oldest ancestor of modern birds, found in the Northern Hemisphere. Using high-resolution x-rays, scientists have established the age of the remains – according to preliminary data, they are about 66.7 million years old.
The new species was named Asteriornis maastrichtensis in honor of the Greek goddess Asteria.
“We thought it was a suitable name for a creature who lived shortly before the impact of the Cretaceous asteroid. In Greek mythology, Asteria turns into a quail, and we believe that Asteriernis was close to a common ancestor, which today includes quails, as well as chickens and ducks”.
Daniel Ksepka, lead author of the study