A fossil of a bird lived alongside dinosaurs 120 million years ago. It had a tongue that was as long as it was its head and used that tongue to grab food

  • China found a 120-million year old fossilized bird.
  • This fossil shows how the bird was able to have a long and bony tongue that is twice the length of its head.
  • To find food in places that were difficult to access, it used its long tongue. 
  • This is the oldest example of a bird sticking its tongue out, seen in modern-day hummingbirds. 

It was discovered that a bird 120 million years old lived beside dinosaurs had a bony tongue.

Scientists discovered the fossilized bones of this creature in Northeastern China and were able to identify it.

Today’s birds such as parrots or ducks have tongues which can be used to move food, get it in their mouths and help swallow.

Woodpeckers and hummingbirds both have bony tongues that are as long or wider than their skulls.

Brevirostruavis macrohyoideus was an extinct bird that could stick its tongue out.

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A bird that lived alongside the dinosaurs 120 million years ago is found to have had a bony tongue as long as its head. The creature was discovered by scientists who uncovered its fossilized skeleton in northeastern China

The bony tongue of a dinosaur-living bird is revealed to be as long as the creature’s head. Researchers discovered its fossilized skull in northeastern China and were able to identify it.

Scientists from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and University of Texas at Austin made the discovery.

According to the team, it was believed that the bird caught insects with its long tongue, much like a woodpecker does to pull out bugs from holes in bark or wood.

The prehistoric avian may have been eating nectar or pollen from the trees where it lived.

This bird that boasted a short snout was part of an extinct group of birds called enantiornithines or ‘opposite’ birds, which were the most successful group of birds during the Cretaceous Period (between 66 and 145 million years ago).

These fossils have also been discovered all over the globe. 

Dr Wang Min was co-author. He stated in a statement that there is a lot variation in the shape and size of skulls in enantiornithine bird species. That could reflect the wide variety in their diets and the way they catch their food.

“Now, with this fossil we see that not only their skulls but also their tongues vary.

These early birds had rigid skulls, as evidenced by researchers.

This restriction placed evolutionary and functional limitations on the early birds.

According to Dr. LI Zhiheng, the lead author of the study, ‘Perhaps their only chance to fundamentally alter through evolution how and when they catch their food was to reduce their skull in this instance and make their tongue bones longer’.

Hummingbirds (pictured) also have a bony tongue as long or longer than their skulls

Woodpeckers also have a bony tongue as long or longer than their skulls

Left: Hummingbirds, woodpeckers. Their bony tongues are also longer or wider than their skulls.

Ceratobranchials are bones that make up the long and curved hyoid system of the fossil bird. 

Although living birds have these bones in their hips, the epibranchial ones are absent in early birds. They can be found in birds like woodpeckers, and they tend to grow very large.

Thomas Stidham, co-author of the book, stated in a statement that “Animals evolve evolutionarily with whatever they have.” 

“This bird developed a long tongue from the bones it received from its dinosaur ancestors. Living birds have evolved longer tongues using the bones they have.” This is a great example of the power and potential of evolution. Birds used two evolutionary routes to create a long, stick-out tongue.