Jaw-dropping: Study of toothed bird fossil leads to insight into structure of birds' beaks

CambridgeEdited By: Manas JoshiUpdated: Dec 01, 2022, 05:18 PM IST
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The study has upended some generally accepted scientific truths.

When we chew food, our lower jaw moves. The upper jaw is completely immobile and fully fused with our skull. But some modern birds like chickens, ducks etc can also move their upper jaw. Such a mouth is versatile as with it these birds are able to perform some relatively dextrous functions. 

It has been a general agreement that 'neognaths' or birds which are able to move both jaws developed this ability relatively recently in evolutionary history. But a CT scan of a toothed bird fossil has upended this understanding.

This bird lived 66.7 million years ago, just before an asteroid wiped out all non-avian dinosaurs. Researchers have found that this bird, Janavis finalidens, was able to move both its jaws. This has provided evidence to researchers that ability to move both jaws predated advent of modern birds. 

“The assumption has always been … that the ancestral condition for all modern birds was this fused-up condition typified by ostriches and their relatives just because it seems simpler and more reminiscent of non-bird reptiles,”said Dr Daniel Field, senior author of the research from the University of Cambridge. He was quoted by The Guardian. 

The research has been published in scientific journal Nature. 

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