A Russian paleontologist has stumbled upon a parrot fossil in Siberia, the first proof of parrots living in Asia.
In a report published by Biology Letters, Nikita Zelenkov described how he noticing the lower limb bone of a bird being placed in a container in his office and instantly saw that it was from a parrot. The fossil was from a large collection of ancient animal bones produced by an excavation on a Siberian island that began back in 2010.
“We were excavating all kinds of animals there, and mostly they were rodents, rhinos, cats, hippos and others,” Zelenkov told BBC News.
“But this locality is also interesting because it preserves a rich community of fossil birds. But no exotic birds have been found there before.”
Dating the Remains to 18 Million Years Ago
According to the report, the parrot bone has been dated to about 16 to 18 million years ago, placing it in the latter part of the Early Miocene. It was determined to be one of the bones that connects a parrots’ ankle and toes, which is known as a tarsometatarsus.
The majority of parrots today live in tropical or sub-tropical areas, making the remains of a parrot in an region that is extremely cold for most of the year a very unexpected find. However, the study noted, during the Early Miocene, Siberia was much warmer. Also, there are several parrots living today in colder climates. One species lives in an area of the Himalayas, for instance. The report also said since the bone is very similar to the same bone in modern species, this parrot probably they looked like the parrots we see today.
Discovering the fossil in Siberia indicates that theories on how parrots came to North America may need to be revised. Scientists have said the birds came via the Berengia land bridge that once connected North America and Asia. Now, it seems just as probable they came across the Bering Strait.
Since the fossil is so small, learning more on the bird that it came from isn’t very likely, the report said. Because evaluations of it have been exhaustive, further study has been ruled out, at least for the moment. However, now that we know parrots lived in the region, future excavations will certainly concentrate on locating parrot bones among the many others that are discovered.
Image credit: Dr Nikita Zelenkov
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