The discovery of a creature described as resembling a “buck-toothed toucan” that lived some 68 million years ago has upended assumptions about diversity in the birds that lived alongside dinosaurs.
At less than nine centimetres (3.5 inches) long, the delicate skull of the bird scientists have dubbed Falcatakely forsterae might be easily overlooked.
In fact, it almost was, sitting in a backlog of excavated fossils for years before CT scanning suggested the specimen deserved more attention.
It turns out that its tall, scythe-like beak, while resembling the toucan, is something never before seen in the fossil record.
Birds in the Mesozoic era — between 250 million and 65 million years ago — had “relatively unspecialised snouts”, Patrick O’Connor, lead author of a study on the new creature, told AFP.
“Falcatakely just changed the game completely, documenting a long, high beak unlike anything known in the Mesozoic,” added O’Connor, professor of