The foot shapes of modern birds are very diverse, reflecting their different living habits, including perching position, wading, swimming, and hunting.
A research team composed of Chinese University of Hong Kong and international paleontologists discovered a dromaeosaurid dinosaur named Microraptor by comparing the foot features of fossils and modern birds, including toe pads, scales, claws and joints on the feet. It has very similar characteristics to eagles, and is described as "very rare among ancient birds".
According to the research team, the results suggest that some non-avian but flying relatives of birds in ancient times performed similar functions in the ecosystem to modern raptors.
The research results have been published in the renowned international scientific journal Nature Communications.
LSF image of a Microraptor foot.
(Provided by CUHK)
The CUHK research team used Laser-Stimulated Fluorescence imaging technology (Laser-Stimulated Fluorescence) to examine more than 1,000 fossils of ancient birds and their close relatives, found a small number of relatively complete samples of soft tissues, and used the technology to evaluate the soft tissues and hinge joints of bird fossil feet Characteristics, using traditional morphometrics to analyze the shape and size of claws, and reconstruct the lifestyle of ancient birds.
According to the team, the first birds of the Jurassic period, such as Anchiornis and Archeopteryx, had characteristics that were more suitable for living on the ground.
By the early Cretaceous, birds became more adapted to aerial life.
Among them, the Microraptor genus is a close relative of the early Cretaceous birds, living in what is now Northeastern China. Studies have found that the Microraptor genus has a lifestyle similar to modern raptors, and has characteristics similar to eagles. It is believed that in ancient times Very rare in birds.
Wen Jiaqi, an assistant professor at the School of Life Sciences at CUHK and the first author of the paper, said that the foot characteristics of modern birds are closely related to their living habits. change over time.
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