Scientists have discovered a new Arctic bird species through a study involving 90 million year old fossils discovered in the Canadian Arctic.
Published in Scientific Reports the study was carried out by researchers at University of Rochester and is considered to be an add-on to studies based on previously discovered fossils from the area. The new study combined with the older ones give us a much more clear picture of the ecosystem that existed in the Canadian Arctic during the Cretaceous period’s Turonian age, which lasted from approximately 93.9 to 89.8 million years ago. The new bird species, which would have been a cross between a large seagull and a diving bird like a cormorant, has been named the bird Tingmiatornis arctica.
Researchers say that the fossils are the oldest avian records found in the northernmost latitude, and shed light on an intense warming event during the late Cretaceous period. Researchers say that based on the evidence the environment in which the bird was living most likely comprised of volcanic activity, would have lived near freshwater in an area where the temperatures are comparable to those in northern Florida today.
“The fossils tell us what that world could look like, a world without ice at the arctic,” says Richard Bono, a PhD candidate in earth and environmental sciences at the University and a member of Tarduno’s expedition. “It would have looked very different than today where you have tundra and fewer animals.”
The fossils of the new bird species were discovered above basalt lava fields, created from a series of volcanic eruptions. The fossils include three bird bones: part of the ulna and portions of the humerus, which, in birds, are located in the wings.
Scientists believe volcanoes pumped carbon dioxide into the Earth’s atmosphere, causing a greenhouse effect and a period of extraordinary polar heat. This created an ecosystem allowing large birds, including Tingmiatornis arctica, to thrive.
Team’s paleontologist, Julia Clarke of the University of Texas, determined the evolutionary relationships of the new birds as well as characteristics that indicate whether it likely was able to fly or dive and says that the newly discovered species are comparatively close cousins of all living birds.