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Thanks to a new study which the journal Nature recently published, experts are now closer than ever to discovering how modern birds lost their teeth and evolved to have beaks. Seagulls, with their huge eyes and ancient-looking heads, are actually descendants of dinosaurs such as the T. rex and the velociraptor. This is why, for more than a century, experts have tried to gather pieces to discover how these huge and land-bound lizards have evolved into flying, feathered and toothless animals.
It seems that the key to finding that answer are the so-called stem birds. The fossils of these ancient bird-like dinosaurs offer a lot of clues regarding the mystery. The new study is actually based on the fossils of the creature called Ichthyornis dispar. This animal was the closest to a seagull in terms of its appearance. It had huge eyes and a long beak and back then, it lived in Kansas. Except that Kansas was an inland sea about 100 million years ago. However, this creature had something that modern gulls don’t: teeth and a jaw to use them with.
The evolution of birds from dinosaurs
The combination of traits that this creature possessed could have been the key to answering this question. However, the only fossils available were in a very bad shape to be studied properly. But back in 2014, luck struck. Experts managed to find a complete skull fossil back in Kansas. Upon studying it, the team found that the Ichthyornis was able to move its beak the same way modern birds too. This meant one thing: birds use their beak as a surrogate hand.
However, there was also a big difference. While the ancient creature had a very small brain, modern birds have a much larger one. One theory states that in time, the birds’ skull evolved to keep up with the growing size of the brain. This is why the jaws shrunk and therefore, the teeth disappeared.
Image source: pixnio