Two partial skeletons unearthed in northeastern China have dashed the record for the oldest avian relatives of today’s birds.
The remains belonged to a species, Archaeornithura meemannae, that lived 130.7 million years ago — about 6 million years earlier than the previous record holders. Fossil hunters discovered bones of the hummingbird-sized creatures embedded in siltstone slabs in what may have once been a lake. Stubby feathers stipple the ancient birds’ bodies, except for some spots on the legs. These bald patches hint that the animals once waded through watery homes, suggest Chinese Academy of Sciences paleontologist Min Wang and colleagues May 5 in Nature Communications.