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Oct 09, 2015 01:22 PM EDT

Early birds could fly, says study

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According to a new study of a 125 million old fossilized wing found in central Spain, ancient birds had the power to fly and must have soared over the heads of dinosaurs, The Christian Science Monitor reports. 

The research was published Thursday in Scientific Reports.

Scientists consider that the earliest ancestors of birds, the Archaeopteryx, lived some 150 million years ago in what is now southern Germany.

The research was led by University of Bristol PhD student, Guillermo Navalón, together with a team of Spanish paleontologists and Luis M. Chiappe of the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles County.

The team studied the well-preserved right wing of the ancient bird from central Spain. The fossil had the joint of the forelimb, remains of the plumage and of the soft-tissues of the wing.

From the fossil, the team found that the fibers in the fossil were an anatomical match to the network of ligaments, muscles, and tendons in modern-day birds.

"It's very surprising that despite being skeletally quite different from their modern counterparts, these primitive birds show striking similarities in their soft anatomy," lead author of the study, Mr. Navalón said.

The similarity of the structures in the wing of the primitive bird to the birds we see today led the researchers to conclude that at least some of the most ancient birds were able to fly like the birds we see today.

Co-author of the report, Jesús Marugán Lobón from Universidad Autónoma in Madrid said the fossil gives scientists access to the most minute details of "the early evolution of the flight of birds."

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