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A bird leg with one super-long toe is something paleontologists say they’ve never seen before.

Jul 15, 2019
Chia-Yi Hou

ABOVE: A fossilized bird in amber with a very long toe
LIDA XING

A bird leg with a super-long third toe was found fossilized in amber dating back 99 million years. The bird might have used the toe to hook food out of a tree trunk, paleontologists speculate in a study published July 11 in Current Biology. “Elongated toes are something you commonly see in arboreal animals because they need to be able to grip these branches and wrap their toes around them,” says study coauthor Jingmai O’Connor of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in a press release. “But this extreme difference in toe lengths, as far as we know, has never been seen before.”

L. Xing et al., “A new Enantiornithine bird with unusual pedal proportions found in amber,” Curr Biol, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2019.05.077, 2019.

Chia-Yi Hou is an intern at The Scientist. Email her at chou@the-scientist.com.

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