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Exquisite Preserved Lungs from 120 million years old Stun researchers studying early bird

ALBUQUERQUE, NM – Ancient bodies often rarely fossilize paleontologists to find the incredibly well-preserved remains of a lung belonging to…

ALBUQUERQUE, NM – Ancient bodies often rarely fossilize paleontologists to find the incredibly well-preserved remains of a lung belonging to bird from the dinosaur age.

At the beginning, researchers were pleased to describe the sample of Archaeorhynchus spathula a bird that lived about 120 million years ago, because its fossil had exquisitely preserved feathers, including a unique pintail not seen in any other cretaceous bird, but is common in birds nowadays. [19659002] However, a closer inspection revealed that the lungs of the bird had also fossilized, which means that the paleontologists had discovered the oldest “informative” fossil lung on record (more about later) and the oldest fossil lung ever seen in a bird foxil, the research scientist mentioned Jingmai O & # 39; Connor, a professor at the Institute for Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoantropology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. [Tiny Dino: Reconstructing Microraptor&#821

7;s Black Feathers]

The fossil is from the early Cretaceous Jehol Lagerstätte formation in northeast China, but Connor and her colleagues found it at Shandong Tianyu Nature Museum in Pingyi, where an avid fossil collector holds thousands of bird fossils he bought under decades.

This is the fifth described A. Spathula Test – A Toothless, Pigeon-sized Bird – But it is by far the best kept, “said Connor. This is mainly because of the white tissue in the thoracic cavity that appears to be a fossilized lung.

An artist’s interpretation of the age of the dinosaur Bird Archaeorhynchus spathula, which was a little bigger than a modern pigeon.

Credit: Brian Choo

The discovery shows that the lung structures of early birds resemble the lungs of modern birds, the researchers said. This means that A. spathula probably had enriched airflow in the lungs – the air flowing in was largely fresh and full of oxygen, unlike the air in the mammalian lungs mixed with both new and previous respiratory air, which means it has lower oxygen content.

“Lungs of birds differ very differently from our lungs and [had] much more complex structures,” said P. Martin Sander, a paleontologist at Bonn, Germany, who was not involved in research, told Live Science in an email. “They are typical as a bagpipe, with an air conduit system that is separated from the gas-lighter (the lung-shaped) that is preserved here.”

Live crocodiles also have lungs with enriched airflow and paleontologists felt that they were ancestors in early resilient dinosaurs. But evidence of such a lung structure in an early bird has been uneven, until now.

To get a better look at the assumed pulmonary remnants, “We went and extracted some samples, put them in SEM [scanning electron microscope] and” boom lung tissue, “O & # 39; Connor told Live Science. Because O & # 39; Connor specializes in skeletal (non-organ) anatomy, she cried in John Maina, a professor of zoology at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa, who is expert on the lungs of living birds.

“I was like,” Think, do you think this is lung tissue? If you think so, none of us digging in-the-dirt paleontologists can argue with you, “said Connor. Maina’s contribution was so critical that he became co-investigator in the study.

An analysis of the tissue showed that it contained structures similar to blood capillaries that absorb oxygen to help drive the high-energy airplane. “Avian flights are the most physically demanding form of locomotive, so you need a lot of oxygen for it,” said O’Connor. [Photos: Dinosaur-Era Bird Sported Ribbon-Like Feathers]

It is possible that this unique structure was unique to Ornithuromorpha, a clover of ancient birds that survived the mass destruction 66 million years ago and encompasses today’s living birds. “Perhaps this specialization was only in that record and was one of the many factors that gave [their] survival, “says Connor.

It also appears that the fossil lung was embedded in the bird’s ribs, just as chicks are today. Unlike humans lean lungs that expand with each breath, the chickens are stiff so they can easily inhale and breathe out at the same time, “said O’Connor.

The tissue does not appear to remain in the magic content, which usually preserves as black carbonized organic material, she noted. In addition, the canned tissue is parade, just like a modern lung. There are no other parade organs as it may be, and it is probably not the liver (which is lobed) because it has a high iron content and usually preserves red, “says O’Connor.

An early Kretaceous mammal with fossil lungs is about 5 million years older than the newly diagnosed bird. However, these lung fossils did not hold back to Spinolestes some microstructure, and did not give much information about Spinolestes other than that likely to have a muscle membrane. “Connor A. spathula ” fossil is called the first informative pulmonary residue, because they light on bird development.

The lung findings are “cool things” because it shows “how an early bird looked”, Sander said. But because it’s so rare to see a fossilized body, more work is needed to verify that this is a lung, he said.

“We should apply various other analytical techniques to confirm that the area in the fossil is really lung,” he said. “But I would not be surprised if lung can fossilize due to a v its high iron content because the lung is rich in blood. “

The research was presented here at the 78th Annual Association for Vertebrate Palaeontology yesterday (18 October). It will be published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday, October 22.

Originally published on Live Science .

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