A 99-million-year-old bird with a toe longer than its leg has been found fossilised in amber.
Researchers in China found the tiny-winged animal with an unusually large digit on each foot, and believe it was used to hook grubs out of tree trunks.
They said it’s the first time they have seen a structure of toe and foot like it in birds, either extinct or living.
Lida Xing, of China University of Geosciences in Beijing, said: “I was very surprised when I saw the amber.
“It shows that ancient birds were way more diverse than we thought. They had evolved many different features to adapt to their environments.”
The study found the bird’s third toe, measuring 9.8mm, was 41% longer than its second toe, and 20% longer than its tarsometatarsus, a bone in the lower legs of birds.
Based on the fossil, the team thinks the bird, which they named Elektorornis, was smaller than a sparrow and would have spent most of its time in trees.
Elektor is from the Greek meaning amber, while ornis is the same language, meaning bird.
The co-author of the report, published in Current Biology, Jingmai O’Connor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said: “Elongated toes are something you commonly see in arboreal animals because they need to be able to grip these branches and wrap their toes around them.”
The amber the foot was found it was discovered at the Hukawng Valley in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, in 2014.
The area around it was full of trees which produced a gooey resin from the bark.
Small animals like geckos and spiders, as well as plants, get trapped in the resin and become fossilised after millions of years.
The team got the piece of amber from a local tradesman, who had no idea what animal the foot belonged to. Some traders through it was a lizard’s foot because of the length of the toe, according to the scientists.
However, the foot in the amber has four toes, like most birds, while lizards have five.
The only known animal with disproportionately long digits is the aye-aye, a lemur, which has long middle fingers it uses to fish larvae and insects out of tree trunks to eat.
Unhatched birds can warn other eggs in nest of danger by vibrating | Science & Tech News
Unhatched baby seabirds can warn each other of impending danger by vibrating within their shells, scientists have discovered.
A study of yellow-legged gull embryos, found they reacted to warning calls from a parent and even passed on the message to siblings who had not heard the call.
The researchers collected gull eggs and divided them into groups of three.
A week before hatching, two of the three eggs in each nest were temporarily removed and exposed to a recording of a predator alarm call.
The noise was delivered four times a day at random intervals for three minutes at a time until hatching.
The third egg from each group remained in the nest in silence.
All three eggs were then reunited and left to hatch.
It was found the embryos responded to the external alarm calls by vibrating more.
This information appeared to be passed on to the third egg which had not been directly exposed to the sounds and it then mimicked the vibrations.
Experts from the Animal Ecology Group at the University of Vigo in Spain discovered all the chicks underwent genetic changes that delayed hatch time.
There was also evidence of increased production of stress hormones which is known to make birds more aware of their surroundings after hatching.
The findings were published in the journal, Nature Ecology and Evolution.
Bali arrests: Shackled Australians facing jail over ‘cocaine use’ | World News
Two Australian men have been paraded in front of the media a week after being arrested in Bali on suspicion of cocaine use and possession.
Indonesian police are preparing to charge the pair and are currently searching for a third suspect after a series of drug raids in the village of Canggu, a popular nightclub area on the island of Bali.
The two men, who have been named as William Cabantong, 35, and David Van Iersel, 38, were led out in front of the media in hand and foot shackles, alongside local drug suspects.
Police acted on a tip-off, and said they found 1.12g of cocaine in the pockets of one of the men, as well as drug equipment including a set of broken scales.
The men bought 2g of cocaine for three million rupiahs (£172), according to police.
The pair have undergone days of interrogation and tests while in prison. Police say a blood test revealed that both Mr Cabantong and Mr Van Iersel were cocaine users.
Denpasar police chief Ruddi Setiawan told reporters: “We advise tourists, locals, and foreigners to come here for a holiday, don’t come to have a drugs party or to use drugs.
“We will take firm action if any foreigners resist. We will not be lenient.”
The men are expected to be charged under Indonesian law 112, legislation which covers drug possession. The punishment carries a possible jail term of between four and 12 years, as well as a fine of 800 million rupiah (£45,000).
It is understood that both Mr Cabantong and Mr Van Iersel worked as nightclub promoters whilst they lived in Australia before they travelled to Bali.
Indonesia is known for its strong penalties against those who commit drug offences. In 2017, Indonesian President Joko Widodo told police officers to shoot drug traffickers.
He said: “Be firm, especially to foreign drug dealers who enter the country and resist arrest. Shoot them because we indeed are in a narcotics emergency position now.”
Drug-resistant malaria strains spread through south east Asia | World News
Strains of drug-resistant malaria are becoming more dominant in Vietnam, Laos and northern Thailand after spreading rapidly from Cambodia.
Malaria is caused by parasites which are carried by mosquitoes and spread through their blood-sucking bites.
And scientists have discovered a growing number of cases where the parasite has mutated making it resistant to drugs.
“We discovered (it) had spread aggressively, replacing local malaria parasites, and had become the dominant strain in Vietnam, Laos and northeastern Thailand,” said Roberto Amato, from the Wellcome Sanger Institute.
Malaria can be successfully treated with medicines if it is caught early enough, but resistance to anti-malarial drugs is growing in many parts of the world, especially in south east Asia.
The first-line treatment for malaria in many parts of Asia in the last decade has been a combination of dihydroartemisinin and piperaquine, also known as DHA-PPQ.
Researchers found in previous work that a strain of malaria had evolved and spread across Cambodia between 2007 and 2013 that was resistant to both drugs.
This latest research, published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal, found it has crossed borders and tightened its grip.
“The speed at which these resistant malaria parasites have spread in south east Asia is very worrying,” said Olivo Miotto, who co-led the work.
“Other drugs may be effective at the moment but the situation is extremely fragile and this study highlights that urgent action is needed.”
Almost 220 million people were infected with malaria in 2017, according to World Health Organisation estimates, and the disease killed 400,000 of them.
The vast majority of cases and deaths are among babies and children in sub-Saharan Africa.
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