Fossil of ancient flightless bird found on Vancouver Island beach

VICTORIA -- A family out for a stroll on southern Vancouver Island stumbled upon the extraordinary fossilized remains of a 25-million-year-old flightless bird that has created a flap in the world of paleontology.

See Full Article

The fossil was in good enough condition for researchers to identify the animal as a new species of a plotopterid, a long-extinct penguin or cormorant-like bird never before found in Canada.

A collarbone from the bird was found inside a slab of rock on a Sooke, B.C., beach.

It's only the second set of fossilized bird bones found on southern Vancouver Island since 1895, said bird expert Gary Kaiser of the Royal B.C. Museum.

Fossils of birds are extremely rare because the fragile and hollow bones don't hold up to crushing weight, acidic soils and elements like other fossils do.

"They get broken up, crushed easily," Kaiser said in an interview Tuesday. "The bones simply dissolve. They disappear."

In this case, the sandstone and lack of acid in the water seemed to preserve the fossil, he said.

A father, daughter and son were out for a walk two years ago when they found the bone in a slab of rock that had fallen from the nearby cliffs, he said.

The daughter spotted the fossil. Her brother carried the slab off the beach, before the father brought it to the museum.

Next to a skull, the collarbone is the best bone to find because it sits at the shoulder where the wings function and where the collar blade, arm bone and sternum are attached.

"It is the most informative bone in a bird skeleton. It tells you more than anything else about what the bird does for a living," Kaiser said.

The long, skinny bone wasn't anything like he had ever seen before.

"Right away, I knew it was an unusual bone," he said, noting that's when he linked it to the plotopterid fossil.

Relatives of the bird have been found in Japan and in Oregon and California, but none has been as small.

"Of those several hundred birds, all but two of them are huge. I mean they're birds that probably weighed 200 kilograms when they were alive and stood six-foot tall," Kaiser said.

This animal was about the size of cormorant.

Kaiser and his colleague Junya Wantanabe of Kyoto University named the bird Stemec suntokum because it's a new species. The name means long-necked waterbird in the language of the T'Sou-Ke First Nation who live in the area.

Kaiser said he believes that if they had the fossil's brain case the animal would look like a penguin, but an American man who studies plotopterids is convinced they are more like cormorants.

"It's a bit of a fight, but not unusual in biology because there's no way of telling," he added.

The discovery announcing the species has been published in the online journal Palaeontologia Electronica.



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • Man says he punched grizzly bear in the nose in B.C.

    Tech & Science CTV News
    QUALICUM BEACH, B.C. - A British Columbia man's beachcombing trip turned into a harrowing fight for survival as a grizzly bear flailed him around "like a puppet." Fifty-seven-year-old Randal Warnock says he had been walking on the beach on Brown Island on B.C. Source
  • 'Mystery' signal from space is solved; it's not aliens

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Astronomers have finally solved the mystery of peculiar signals coming from a nearby star, a story that sparked intense public speculation this week that perhaps, finally, alien life had been found. It hasn't. The signal, which has been formally named "Weird!" was interference from a distant satellite. Source
  • Possible melted fuel seen for first time at Fukushima plant

    Tech & Science CTV News
    TOKYO -- An underwater robot captured images of solidified lava-like rocks Friday inside a damaged reactor at Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, spotting for the first time what is believed to be nuclear fuel that melted six years ago. Source
  • North Atlantic right whale to be examined on N.B. island

    Tech & Science CTV News
    MISCOU ISLAND, N.B. -- Marine mammal experts will examine another North Atlantic right whale today after it was found dead in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The federal Fisheries Department says the necropsy is being conducted near the Miscou Island Lighthouse on the northern tip of Miscou Island, N.B. Source
  • Elephant seals have rhythm and they know how to use it

    Tech & Science CBC News
    New research published in the journal Current Biology finds that elephant seals identify one another by the rhythm in their calls, much the way humans can discern accents and vocal tone. Previously there was no recorded example of a non-human mammal that could remember and recognize a wide range of rhythms. Source
  • Moon dust collected by Neil Armstrong sold for $1.8 million

    Tech & Science CTV News
    NEW YORK -- A bag containing traces of moon dust sold for $1.8 million at an auction on Thursday following a galactic court battle. The collection bag, used by astronaut Neil Armstrong during the first manned mission to the moon in 1969, was sold at a Sotheby’s auction of items related to space voyages. Source
  • Moon dust collected by Neil Armstrong sold for US$1.8 million

    Tech & Science CTV News
    NEW YORK -- A bag containing traces of moon dust sold for $1.8 million at an auction on Thursday following a galactic court battle. The collection bag, used by astronaut Neil Armstrong during the first manned mission to the moon in 1969, was sold at a Sotheby’s auction of items related to space voyages. Source
  • China announces goal to dominate AI field by 2030

    Tech & Science CTV News
    BEIJING -- China’s government has announced a goal of becoming a global leader in artificial intelligence in just over a decade, putting political muscle behind growing investment by Chinese companies in developing self-driving cars and other advances. Source
  • Cops wage psychological warfare against online drug bazaars

    Tech & Science CTV News
    HOUSTON - In an innovative blow to illicit internet commerce, cyberpolice shut down the world's leading "darknet" marketplace - then quietly seized a second bazaar to amass intelligence on illicit drug merchants and buyers. AlphaBay, formerly the internet's largest darknet site, had already gone offline July 5 with the arrest in Thailand of its alleged creator and administrator. Source
  • Alexandre Cazes, suspected founder of Dark Web market AlphaBay, found dead in Thai police custody

    Tech & Science CTV News
    HOUSTON - In an innovative blow to illicit internet commerce, cyberpolice shut down the world's leading "darknet" marketplace - then quietly seized a second bazaar to amass intelligence on illicit drug merchants and buyers. AlphaBay, formerly the internet's largest darknet site, had already gone offline July 5 with the arrest in Thailand of its alleged creator and administrator. Source