card
264

Confuciusornis

OLogy Series
extinct animal
card
264

Confuciusornis

OLogy Series
extinct animal

Confuciusornis is the earliest-known toothless, beaked bird. Like other birds, scientists believe
the Confuciusornis evolved from a carnivorous dinosaur that had feathers and a bird-like body structure. Hundreds of specimens of this flying bird have been discovered in east Asia.

A Feathered Tale
Along with many, well-preserved skeletons of Confuciusornis, scientists have also found evidence of feathers. Like those of modern-day birds, these feathers are believed to have been exceptionally strong, remarkably light, and
amazingly intricate. They covered the Confuciusornis' large wings, an important factor in this birdÂ’s flight. But these feathers may have served another purpose, too. Some specimens had two long streamer-like feathers, which may have been used in courtship--just as the male peacock displays its colorful tail feathers to attract a mate. In fact, of all animal body coverings, feathers display the most diversity and serve the widest range of functions. Another example is the penguin, whose thin, short feathers work like a wet suit, insulating it from the cold. Feathers can also help camouflage a bird, like the wild grouse whose plumage changes with the seasons, allowing it to blend in with its habitat.

Birds are living:

dinosaurs

fish

mammals

Are you right?

Correct!

Birds are descendants of small carnivorous dinosaurs. Unlike terrestrial dinosaurs, they survived a mass extinction 65 million years ago that wiped out over half of Earth's plant and animal species. Today, there are more than 18,000 species of birds.

Sterling Nesbitt, Paleontologist

Paleontologists have found hundreds of complete fossil skeletons of Confuciusornis, some even with soft tissue impressions!

Confuciusornis was the first bird to appear on Earth.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fiction

Birds appeared in the Late Jurassic, thousands
of years before Confuciusornis. Unlike birds today, the first birds had both tooth and long tails.

Confuciusornis ("Confucius bird")
Locality found: eastern Asia
Age: Early Cretaceous, 120 mya
Size: 8-12 inches long
Diet: plants (and possibly fish)
Characteristics: beak, no teeth, short tail, and large wings
Significance: The earliest known toothless, beaked bird.

Image credits: Sean Murtha; Sterling Nesbitt: courtesy of AMNH.