Asia’s oldest sand chicken fossil reveals 6 million years ago in Qinghai-Tibet Plateau ecology

Reporter 5 from the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Paleovertebrates and Paleoanthropology (Casu Institute of Paleovertebrates) was informed that the team of scientists in the Linxia Basin in the late Neolithic strata found a fossil of about 6 million to 9 million years old, is currently known in Asia’s oldest, most complete, and associated bones of sand chicken fossils, for understanding the evolution of today’s Chinese sand chicken, especially in Tibet, the unique plateau ecosystem and unique species provides key evidence.

Asia's oldest sand chicken fossil reveals 6 million years ago in Qinghai-Tibet Plateau ecology

Arid Pro-Summer Bird Fossils (left) and Dry Summer Bird Color Images based on CT scan data (right). Research team for pictures

This important discovery and research in the field of paleontology was carried out by researchers Li Zhiheng, Thomas Stidham, Deng Tao, Zhou Zhong and co-author of the research paper, which has been published online in the international academic journal Frontiers of Ecology and Evolution. The researchers named the newly discovered fossil of a sand chicken as the arid pro-summer bird, meaning “a bird from the near summer area that lives in arid conditions.”

The scientists say that sand chickens are the collective name of sand chickenbirds, including 16 present-life species, and although their names may sound closely related to chickens, they are sistertoic to pigeons, living in the driest and driest regions of Europe, Asia and Africa (concentrated in the mid- and low-latitude arid zones of the northern hemisphere). These seed-based birds have a unique ability to adapt to life in arid areas, and male sand chickens can use feathers in their chests and abdomens to collect water and then fly back to nests more than 10 kilometres away to feed thirsty chicks.

The age of the arid summer birds dates from about 6 million to 9 million years ago, when the altitude of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau continued to rise rapidly, the monsoon climate strengthened, and the inland regions of Central Asia continued to experience drought. The fossils of arid near-summer birds are found at an altitude of more than 2,000 meters, which is clearly far higher than all kinds of sand chickens except tibetan furry sand chickens, which still live in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Given the excellent adaptation of the current sand chickens to the arid environment, the researchers speculated that the arid summer birds may have adapted rapidly to the northeast edge of the arid and mountainous Qinghai-Tibet Plateau millions of years ago.

It is worth mentioning that despite the high altitude and arid climate of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, other fossils in the region show that the ecosystems of the Sino-New World are very diverse. “If you walk on the edge of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau six or seven million years ago, it might look like a documentary about the wildlife of Africa’s savannah, and on the horizon, the ancient relatives of dogs, elephants, rhinos, pigs, antelopes, horses, ostrichs, vultures, falcons, and familiar animals are everywhere, including the people of Linxia,” the researchers said. “

The discovery of the arid near-summer bird also fills the gap in the fossil record of sand chickens, which may be the main stage of evolution and proliferation of all members of the current sand chicken, the team said.