© 2024 Connecticut Public

FCC Public Inspection Files:
WPKT · WRLI-FM · WEDW-FM · Public Files Contact
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Ancient Fossils Suggest Birds Began on Water

A trove of new fossils from northern China shows that some of the first birds on Earth lived on the water. The exquisitely preserved fossils, which resemble modern ducks or loons, lived 110 million years ago.

The Early Cretaceous bird, called Gansus yumenensis, was found in the area of an ancient lake in what is now the Changma Basin of northwestern Gansu Province, China. Gansus is the most advanced Early Cretaceous bird yet discovered.

The bird lived at a time when many forms of the animals living today started to take shape, from marsupials and mammals to flying birds. In the past, fossil birds appeared to have gotten their start on land. But that idea is now changing, says researcher Jerry Harris of Dixie State College in Utah.

"Their ancestors were largely living on the water," Harris said. "And only later did they come back up on land." Harris co-lead the discovery team.

Other scientists who've seen the fossils say it's possible that birds tried various strategies as they evolved, both on land and in the water.

Members of the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences first discovered the fossils. One of them, Hai-lu You, says the discovery site in Changma is yielding many more. "We already found dozens of these kind of specimens, so we are very lucky I think," You said. "I am very happy about this."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Christopher Joyce is a correspondent on the science desk at NPR. His stories can be heard on all of NPR's news programs, including NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition.

Stand up for civility

This news story is funded in large part by Connecticut Public’s Members — listeners, viewers, and readers like you who value fact-based journalism and trustworthy information.

We hope their support inspires you to donate so that we can continue telling stories that inform, educate, and inspire you and your neighbors. As a community-supported public media service, Connecticut Public has relied on donor support for more than 50 years.

Your donation today will allow us to continue this work on your behalf. Give today at any amount and join the 50,000 members who are building a better—and more civil—Connecticut to live, work, and play.

Related Content