Dr. Li Zhiheng and Dr. Thomas Stidham of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences have discovered the well-preserved skeleton of an owl that lived more than 6 million years ago in China. According to Phys.org, the fossil was recovered from Late Miocene rocks at an altitude of more than 2,100 meters in China’s Gansu Province, on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau. Skeletal analysis yielded surprising conclusions.
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The find is an almost complete skeleton – from the top of the skull to the wings and legs to the coccyx. Rarely are there also small preserved bones, remains of tendons and muscles, and even the remains of the last meal of a predator – a small mammal. The bones of the ocular cavity are of particular interest to scientists. Its structure indicates that the bird was active during the day rather than at night.
“This skeleton turns upside down what we thought we knew about the evolution of owls,” Dr. Li Zhiheng said of the discovery. Scientists named the newly discovered species Miosurnia diurna to emphasize its relationship with the Rowan owl (Surnia ulula), which is still alive today.
Nocturnal animals must have larger eyes and pupils than animals that are active during the day to be able to see in poor lighting conditions. In the diurnal Myosnia fossils, the soft parts of the eye are clearly decomposed, but small trapezoidal bones remain within the eye cavities.
Based on their measurements, scientists were able to determine the size of the ancient owl’s eye. “It was like playing with Lego, just my numberDr. Stedham tells of how 16 similar small bones intertwine to form a ring around the iris and pupil.
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Once these puzzles were put together correctly, the scientist was able to determine the diameter of the ring and the light hole in the center. Dr. Stedham also emphasizes that diurnal mucinia is the first known evidence of a million-year evolutionary process in which owls were “They have given up the night for fun in the sun.”
“The perfect preservation of the eye bones in this fossilized skull allows us to see that this owl preferred to hunt during the day, not at night,” says Dr. Lee.
Most species of owls lead a nocturnal lifestyle, which is predetermined by very large eyes and a large predominance of rods (cells responsible for vision of movement and in low light) over cones (cells responsible for color vision).
This eye structure allows you to see a small game in the bush even in very poor lighting. However, there are a few species of owls that live a daily life.
Scientists believe that this species evolved from night owls. However, it is not clear when this happened.
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“The startling new discovery of an owl skeleton from the Miocene in China unexpectedly turns out to be the oldest known evidence of an owl’s everyday lifestyle. The extinct owl belonged to the hawksbill owl family, like most owl species living today. Analysis of the preserved tropical bones confirms the similarity with The structure of active birds during the day, a Genetic reconstructions of the evolutionary pathway of the species suggest that the transition from nocturnal to diurnal activity of owls occurred earlier. These findings confirm the possible Miocene origin of the nocturnal lifestyle in the global owl population, which may be related to the expansion of steppe habitats and the cooling of the climate in the late Miocene, according to a study report published by PNAS, the scientific journal of the United States. National Academy of Sciences.
Scientists previously assumed that the ancestors of all owls living today were almost certain to hunt at night, but the ancestor of the hawk-owl family was active during the day. The discovered skeleton of Miosurnia diurna confirmed this hypothesis.
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