New fossil leads to the most detailed 3-D reconstruction of Ichthyornis dispar’s skull
Michael Hanson and B.-A. Bhullar
A bird that lived alongside dinosaurs may have preened its feathers like modern birds — despite a full mouth of teeth that also let it chomp like a dino.
A new 3-D reconstruction of the skull of Ichthyornis dispar, which lived during the Late Cretaceous epoch between 87 million and 82 million years ago, reveals that the ancient fowl had a small, primitive beak and a mobile upper jaw. That mobility allowed the bird to use its beak with precision to groom itself and grab objects, similar to how modern birds employ their beaks, researchers report in the May 3 Nature. But I. dispar also retained some features from its nonavian dinosaur ancestors, including strong jaw muscles in addition to the teeth.
“I. dispar holds a special place because it was for the longest time one of the only known toothed birds,” says Lawrence Witmer, a vertebrate