Nation World News – In a new study, researchers found that the earliest known fruit-eating bird was an ancient bird called Jeholornis that lived 120 million years ago.
Hundreds of animals living on the earth are fruit eaters, including birds.
But when did birds start consuming these fruits in their daily diet? It’s still a mystery.
The researchers concluded after tracking down the fossil evidence and comparing the size of the birds’ skulls and guts.
Jeholornis may also have helped contribute to the spread of the plant that dominates the world today.
“This is the oldest evidence of fruit eating. The discovery of how and when birds began tapping the fruit could help explain why plant species are so dominant in our landscape today,” said Jingmai O’Connor, study co-author and reptile curator. Fossils at the Field Museum., Chicago.
Read also: Experts first discovered ancient vulture fossils in Australia
derive from physiqueWednesday (17/8/2022) This ancient fruit-eating bird, Jeholornis, was first described in 2002. Plant debris strewn around the bird’s fossil appears to have come out of its abdominal cavity.
These guts were superficially identified as seeds, so one would argue that the bird ate the seeds. But 17 years later, other scientists are of the opinion that (analysis of bird fossils shows) it was not just a seed, but a whole fruit,” O’Connor said.
They then conducted further research to find out whether the birds eat only the seeds or the fruit.
“It is important to clarify between these two hypotheses because fruit consumption may result in evolutionary mutualism while seed consumption does not,” said Han Hu, a researcher at the University of Oxford and first author of the study.
Eating the fruit and removing the seeds from the feces can help the plant spread and thrive. But if the seeds are crushed and digested, it will not help the plant to spread.
Next, solve the mystery and confirm that the fossil was the first fruit-eating bird. The researchers had to examine dozens of specimens of Jeholornis at the Shandong Tianyu Nature Museum in China.
Researchers selected the best preserved skulls and scanned them at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization (ANSTO) Australian Synchrotron, Melbourne, Australia.
The scans revealed that the skull of Jeholornis had several features that were more dinosaur-like than those of modern birds (modern birds are the only surviving group of dinosaurs).
However, the mouth and beak of the skull had some features, such as missing teeth, that are present in modern birds.
This feature could potentially hint at a modern diet that includes fruits.
The researchers then compared these reconstructed skulls with modern bird skulls. The researchers also looked at the birds’ stomachs for additional clues.
The grains that their birds eat will have flatulence and dizziness. Several specimens of Jeholornis themselves were found with gizzards and some seeds were found in their intestines.
However, so far no one has found Gerholornis with gizzards and seeds at the same time.
These findings suggest that Jeholornis ate different foods at different times of the year.
When the fruit is available, it will eat the whole fruit and remove the seeds that have not been crushed in its feces.
But when the fruit isn’t in season, the birds will eat something different and tougher and rely on gizzards to crush it. This seasonal diet is in line with the nature of many modern birds.
“Birds can change the proportions of their digestive systems enough to adapt to whatever their diet is in any season. This is the first evidence of this form of flexibility in dinosaurs,” O’Connor explains.
Jeholornis was not only the first known fruit eater, but it also gave scientists a window into how birds helped develop fruit-producing plants.
Birds that eat the fruit and remove seeds from the mother plant also help the plant to spread further.
“Birds have been seed dispersers during the early stages of their development. As highly dynamic seed dispersal, early fruit-eating birds may also suggest a possible role for plant-bird interactions during the terrestrial Cretaceous period,” says O. ‘ Connor explains.
The Jeholornis bird also helps researchers learn about the evolution of flight. According to O’Connor, the fruit diet has put evolutionary pressure on birds to become better at flight.
“Birds can’t sit on a tree forever and eat fruit. Birds need to be able to fly and identify resources by looking at where the fruit is,” he explained.
The researchers hope that this research may inspire research by paleontologists, ecologists, zoologists and botanists interested in the ecology of birds and other extinct animals.