Image of the Day: Bird Braincase

Newly discovered fossils shed light on the structure of the feeding apparatus of ancient seabirds.

The Scientist Staff and The Scientist Staff
May 4, 2018

3-D reconstruction (top) and artist’s rendition (bottom) of an Ichthyornis skull based on high-resolution CT scans of newly discovered fossils.MICHAEL HANSON AND BHART-ANJAN BHULLAR

Modern birds’ skulls are very different from those of their dinosaur forebears—they have bigger, toothless beaks and larger braincases, among other dissimilarities. Discovering how these skulls evolved has been challenging in part because bird skull fossils are rarely well preserved. In a study published in Nature on Wednesday (May 2), researchers describe four new fossils of the ancient seabird Ichthyornis dispar. The discovery sheds light on how early birds’ mouths evolved: they originally had pincer-like beaks used for fine manipulation of objects.

D. Field et al., “Complete Ichthyornis skull illuminates mosaic assembly of the avian head,” Nature, doi:10.1038/s41586-018-0053-y, 2018.