Every bird you’ve ever seen, including robins, pigeons, and penguins at the zoo, is a dinosaur that is still alive. Birds are the main gathering of dinosaurs that endure the space rock actuated mass annihilation quite a while back. However, not every living bird at the time made it. Paleontologists have been trying to figure out why the ancestors of modern birds lived while so many of their relatives died for decades. Two new examinations highlight one potential component: the ways in which modern and ancient birds molt their feathers differ.

One of the key characteristics that all birds share is feathers. They are made of keratin, the same protein as our nails and hair, and birds use them to fly, swim, hide, find mates, stay warm, and protect themselves from the sun. But because feathers are complicated structures that can’t be fixed, birds molt their feathers to grow new ones so they can keep them in good shape. Child birds shed to lose their child feathers and develop grown-up ones; Approximately once per year, mature birds continue to molt.

According to Jingmai O’Connor, associate curator of fossil reptiles at Chicago’s Field Museum, “Molt is something that I don’t think a lot of people think about, but it is fundamentally such an important process for birds, because feathers are involved in so many different functions.” We need to be aware, how did this interaction develop? How could it vary across gatherings of birds? Also, how has that formed bird advancement, molded the survivability of this multitude of various clades?” The molting process in prehistoric birds is the subject of two of O’Connor’s most recent papers.

A cluster of amber-preserved feathers from a 99 million-year-old baby bird was the subject of a May 2023 article in the journal Cretaceous Research.

Today, child birds are on a range in conditions of how created they are the point at which they’re conceived and how much assist they with requiring from their folks. Altricial birds hatch bare and defenseless; Because they do not have feathers, their parents are able to more effectively transfer heat directly to the babies’ skin. In contrast, precocial species are fairly self-sufficient and born with feathers.

All child birds go through progressive sheds – – periods when they lose the quills they have and fill in another arrangement of plumes, before in the end arriving at their grown-up plumage. Shedding takes a great deal of energy, and losing a ton of plumes on the double can make it difficult for a bird to keep itself warm. Precocial chicks, on the other hand, undergo a “simultaneous molt,” losing all of their feathers at roughly the same time, while altricial chicks, on the other hand, can rely on their parents for food and warmth.

This study’s amber-preserved feathers are the first definitive fossil evidence of a juvenile bird molting and reveal a baby bird whose life history is distinct from that of any birds currently in existence. This example shows an absolutely strange blend of precocial and altricial qualities,” says O’Connor, who was the primary creator of the paper close by senior creator Shundong Bi of the Indiana College of Pennsylvania. ” All the body feathers are essentially at precisely the same stage being developed, so this implies that every one of the plumes began developing all the while, or close at the same time.” In any case, this bird was more than likely piece of a now-terminated bunch considered the Enantiornithines, which O’Connor’s past work has shown were profoundly precocial.