A prehistoric bird that lived over 120 million years ago had ornate tail feathers similar to a peacock.
Scientists from China and the US report a distant bird ancestor named Yuanchuavis Kompsosoura that probably used its elaborate plumage to attract a mate.
Well, preserved tail feathers from the specimen were unearthed at the Jehol Biota in northeastern China.
The extinct animal was about the size of a bluejay, but its tail fathers were 150 percent longer than the length of its entirety.
Y. kompsosoura outwardly looked like a modern bird, except it had teeth and clawed fingers on each wingtip.
It belonged to an extinct genus called the Enantiornithines.
“It had two extremely long plumes, with short feathers at the base; we’ve never seen this combination of tail feathers in a fossil bird before,” said paleontologist Jingmai O’Connor.
This type of tailfeather design would have made it very noticeable to potential mates but also made it more noticeable to predators.
Y. kompsosoura’s tail fossils suggest it lived in dense forest during the Early Cretaceous period (145 million years to 100.5 million years ago).
‘Birds that live in harsher environments that need to be able to fly well, like seabirds in their open environment, tend to have short tails,’ said O’Connor.
‘Birds with elaborate tails that are less specialized for flight tend to light in dense, resource-rich environments like forests.’
Today’s dense forested environments are home to some of the most heavily ornamented birds, like birds of paradise (Paradisaeidae).
Many experts believe the meteor strike that ended the dinosaurs’ reign sparked a global firestorm that destroyed much of the world’s forests.
Spectacular Fossil Shows a 120-Million-Year-Old Bird With a Highly Impractical Tail https://t.co/n26QluAx9s— Euro Journal – English News (@eurojournalENG) September 17, 2021
The discovery of Y. kompsosoura could help answer questions about the birds that survived the big extinction event.
‘Understanding why living birds are the most successful group of vertebrates on land today is a fundamental evolutionary question,’ said O’Connor.
‘Whatever it was that allowed them to be so successful probably also allowed them to survive a giant meteor hitting the planet when all other birds and dinosaurs went extinct.’