The remains of a new bird species that lived about 115 million years ago during the Early Cretaceous Epoch have been discovered in Brazil. A right foot and feathers were found at the Crato Formation at Pedra Branca Mine in the state of Ceará.
The new ornithuromorph bird species, which has been named Kaririavis mater, was discovered by paleontologists who were working in the country. As a matter of fact, the odd structure of its foot suggested that it belonged to a never-before-seen type of ornithuromorph. It also had some similar features to today’s flightless birds such as the ostrich and rhea. Ornithuromorpha is a big group of birds that include all living and extinct species except for the Mesozoic enantiornithes.
Scientists have claimed that Kaririavis mater is the earliest known species belonging to the Ornithuromorpha group that lived in Gondwana. Furthermore, it is the oldest fossil of a bird that has ever been found in South America.
Dr. Ismar de Souza Carvalho, who is a paleontologist at the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro and the Universidade de Coimbra, and colleagues explained, “Kaririavis mater lived during the Cretaceous period, when the supercontinent Gondwana — which included the South America, Africa, Australia, Antarctica and India — was splitting,” adding, “It had both primitive and modern morphological characteristics, making its behavior and ecological niche still mysterious.”
They went into further details about the species’ unique feet by noting, “It had coarse feet, very stout toe phalanges, and a claw on the second toe, very curved and proportionately large for its size, unlike those found in most ornithuromorphs, which had slender feet and slender toes.” “The presence of Early Cretaceous ornithuromorphs in Brazil indicates that the clade was widespread in Gondwana during the Mesozoic.”
The fact that this new species was found in Brazil has raised more questions regarding the early history of birds as stated by Professor José Xavier Neto who is a researcher at the Universidade Federal do Ceará, “The discovery brings light to the discussion on the origin of birds on Earth,” adding, “China is the world’s most important source of primitive bird fossils. But, with this unprecedented discovery, the place of origin of the birds is now not clear and definitive: did the birds appear in China and then fly to Brazil or did they appear in Brazil and then fly to China?”
This is certainly one very interesting discovery. Pictures of the fossilized foot and of what the Kaririavis mater would have looked like can be seen here.
The study was published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology where it can be read in full.