ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Image of the Day: Birds of a Lung

A fossil from the Cretaceous Period shows similarities to modern avian species.

Shawna Williams
Shawna Williams

Shawna joined The Scientist in 2017 and is now a senior editor and news director. She holds a bachelor's degree in biochemistry from Colorado College and a graduate certificate and science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

View full profile.


Learn about our editorial policies.

An Archaeorhynchus spathula fossil with preserved plumage and lung tissue
J. ZHANG (INSTITUTE OF VERTEBRATE PALEONTOLOGY AND PALEOANTHROPOLOGY, BEIJING)

The lungs and feathers of a bird that lived 120 million years ago had some of the same characteristics found in today’s birds, researchers reported yesterday (October 18) in PNAS. The paleontologists analyzed an Archaeorhynchus spathula fossil and identified what appeared to be lung tissue—a rare instance of soft tissue being preserved in the fossil record. They examined a sample with scanning electron microscopy and found an extremely subdivided structure much like that enabling modern birds to take in enough oxygen to fuel flight. They also identified similarities between the specimen’s preserved feathers and its modern counterparts.

X. Wang, “Archaeorhynchus preserving significant soft tissue including probable fossilized lungs,” PNAS, doi:10.1073/pnas.1805803115/, 2018.

Interested in reading more?

a Archaeorhynchus spathula fossil

The Scientist ARCHIVES

Become a Member of

Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!
Already a member?
ADVERTISEMENT