Dallas Scientist Discovers Two New Bird Species

January 27, 2011

Museum of Nature & Science Curator Makes History During Alaskan Dig

DALLAS, Jan. 27, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Two new prehistoric bird species have been discovered and named by Dr. Tony Fiorillo, paleontologist and curator to the Museum of Nature & Science in Dallas. The revelation was made following a series of paleontological digs that Fiorillo led in Alaska’s Denali National Park from 2006 – 2010. Fossilized bird tracks dating back 70 million years yielded the remarkable results.

“My team had been working a 50 mile transect through the heart of the park and we found abundant bird tracks,” says Fiorillo. “When the first tracks were found, we were a little speechless because they were so well preserved.”

The internationally-renowned scientist returned to Dallas and began researching the ancient birds that populated Alaska 70 million years ago. Denali National Park had remarkable bird diversity during that time, and Fiorillo was determined to identify and verify every specimen encountered.

“Comparison of the tracks we found to those described in the literature by others showed us that many of the tracks we found were named for other places in either North America or Asia,” he says. “But two types of tracks were a little different. One track type was very large, and though it is similar to the fossil bird tracks found from older rocks here in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex – Magnoavipes lowei - there were enough differences to give these Denali tracks a new name.”

The larger set of bird tracks were so big, Fiorillo and his team settled on the name Magnoavipes denaliensis. The term reflects the vast area of discovery, utilizing the native Koyukon Athabascan name for the region.

The second, smaller bird’s name, Gruipeda vegrandiunis, indicates a separation from previously-discovered similar forms of the bird group “Gruipeda.” “Vegrandiunis” is a combination of the Latin words “vegrandis” and “unus” which translates to “tiny one.”

The discovery will be officially announced, fully outlined and supported in an academic paper, entitled Bird tracks from the Upper Cretaceous Cantwell Formation of Denali National Park, Alaska, USA: a new perspective on ancient northern polar vertebrate biodiversity. Fiorillo and his team of scientists plan to return to Denali during the summer of 2011 to continue their work.

CONTACT: Jennifer Whitus, +1-214-426-4629, jwhitus@natureandscience.org

SOURCE Museum of Nature & Science

Source: newswire

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