Another monster from the Great Age of Monsters!
An article in the journal Palaeontology for 26 September describes the skull of a monstrous prehistoric seabird dated as some 50 million years old. The bird is interesting in being the size of a small airplane and having a mouth full of unbird-like spiky teeth. It is known as Dasornis, a bony-toothed bird, or pelagornithid, and was discovered in the London Clay that underlies much of London, Essex and northern Kent in southeastern UK.
“By today’s standards these were pretty bizarre animals, but perhaps the strangest thing about them is that they had sharp, tooth-like projections along the cutting edges of the beak,” said Gerald Mayr of the German Senckenberg Research Institute and author of the report.
With a wingspan of some 15 foot (five metres), Dasornis is similar in habits to the Albatross but 40 percent bigger.
No living birds have true teeth—which are made of enamel and dentine—because their distant ancestors did away with them more than 100 million years ago, probably to save weight and make flying easier.
But the bony-toothed birds, like Dasornis, are unique among birds in that they reinvented tooth-like structures by evolving these bony spikes.
These birds probably skimmed across the surface of the sea, snapping up fish and squid on the wing. With only an ordinary beak these would have been difficult to keep hold of, and the pseudo-teeth evolved to prevent meals slipping away.
Seems like a rather dodgy description of the evolutionary process to me, especially coming from a scientist — but I know what he meant.
- Source: World Science
- The picture is an artist’s impression of Dasornis emuinus. (Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum)