Wild Fact #28 – The World’s First Bird? – Aurornis xui

Auronis xui - Earliest Bird Discovered

Artist drawing of Auronis xui

There has been a lot of news this week about an extinct species of bird known as Aurornis xui.

Why is Aurornis xui getting so much media attention?

Simply because a fossil was discovered in 2011 and apparently some age data came back recently which tells us that this fossil belongs to the worlds earliest bird species. That’s right, they believe Aurornis xui to be about 160 million years old. Wow, just imagine if that fossil could talk.

Incredibly Aurornis xui predates the Archaeopteryx (thought to be the worlds first bird) by more than 10 million years. I wonder how long it will take before another fossil is found predating this weeks recent discovery.

Does Auronis xui bridge the gap between dinosaurs and birds?

To be honest, I am not sure if it bridged any gaps but it definitely caused a stir in the palaeontology world. In fact, this discovery has lead to the re-classification of Archaeopteryx and has caused a lot of “shuffling” in the family of bird-like dinosaurs known as Troodontidae. So to answer the question, while it may not change the way the average person thinks about birds and dinosaurs, it is a huge discovery in the scientific community, which is leading to a lot of species re-organization. This will ultimately help us figure out the proper lineages.

Auronis Xui

Image Credit: T. Hubin / IRSNB

What Does the Auronis xui  Look Like?

We have all thought about what it would be like during dinosaur times (let’s face it the Jurassic Park series forced us to think about it). Well today, you get another little glimpse into this pre-historic time. Imagine yourself sitting on a rock about 160 million years ago, the sun is red hot, the trees are rustling in the wind and all of a sudden you see a creature scurry past you. As you get up to explore, you see a pheasant-like bird standing underneath the bush. Right away, you notice the large claws and incredibly long tail. You are a keen observer and even pick up on the fact that this dinosaur-bird has very small feathers, so running is most likely its only option.

Unfortunately, this is all you notice before the unique dinosaur-bird, now known as Auronis xui, disappears in a hurried fashion. This leaves you worried as you look over your shoulder to see a much, much larger creature staring at you. This is probably a good time to come back to the 21st Century.

I hope you enjoyed your trip tot he past.


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