The bird is one of the most uncomfortable creatures in the animal kingdom. A part of a duck, partly reptile, part of a mammal, a birdie is known to be one of the few mammals in the world that lay eggs. Remarkably, some of its features are shared by the ancient reptile-like reptile Eretmorhipis carrolldongi, which lived about 250 million years ago – not long after the devastating mass extinction.
Researchers knew about it E. carrolldongi for decades, but the excavated specimens had no skulls. only recently, Chinese paleontologists at the Wohan Center for Geological Surveys discovered specimens with full skulls in Hubei province – and it seems that the skull is a very important element of the puzzle.
"This is a very weird animal," says Riosuke Motani, a paleontologist at the University of California and co-author of the new study. "When I started thinking about biology, I was really puzzled."
Judging by the shape of his skull, Eretmorhipis must have harnessed cartilage. And just like the modern pigeons, the Triassic creature had large holes in the bones of the middle of the bill, which implied a common function. In prisons, the bill is provided with receptors that allow him to catch prey by touching it in muddy streams. As the visibility is low, the birdie also has very small eyes.
Eretmorhipis, who also had small eyes, may have developed this feature because she shared a similar medium of a platter. The ancient reptile lived in an area covered with a shallow sea, deep only one meter lying on a carbonate platform. Researchers suggest that his diet consists of shrimp, worms and other invertebrates.
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Other features include four swimming fins and steering and bone plates that slide down the back of the animal. Eretmorhipis he was probably a bad swimmer, judging by the long and hard body.
"It would not survive in the modern world, but then there were no competitors," Motani said.
Eretmorhipis is not in any way related to the monotypic origin of the birdlet, but rather to the dolphin-like ichthyoses.
The findings appear in the magazine Scientific reports.
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