First fossil lungs found in dinosaur-era bird
Preserved for 120 million years, the organs offer fresh perspective on the origins of avian flight.
About 120 million years ago in what’s now northeastern China, a bird met its end during a volcanic eruption. Ashfall buried the animal so suddenly, its soft tissues didn’t have time to decay, and over millions of years, minerals infiltrated these tissues and preserved their form.
Now, researchers have unveiled this breathtaking specimen, which contains the first fossilized lungs ever found in an early bird.
The species Archaeorhynchus spathula lived alongside the nonavian dinosaurs during the Cretaceous period. The newfound fossil, which preserves feathers and considerable soft tissue, shows that this primitive bird's lungs closely resemble those found in living birds. This suggests that birds’ hyper-efficient lungs, a key adaptation for flight, first emerged earlier than thought, and it