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Aside from playing at a casino, inheriting a fortune from a rich uncle, or something like that you can make good money if you find the fossil of a primitive bird.

Of course but we truly believe that gambling will always remain an easier task, albeit more dangerous, financially speaking, because bird fossils are exceedingly rare and hard to get; more than in the case of almost all animals and plants that existed on Earth; the reason is that birds evolved and became adapted to flight, and that meant developing lightweight bones, in many cases hollow, and such structures are not particularly well-suited to the lengthy fossilisation processes. Hollow structures tend to be crushed.


Fossil strata at Cerro Plataforma, Patagonia.
Fossil strata at Cerro Plataforma, Patagonia.

In 1992 we found in a place called Cerro Plataforma, in Argentina, a little femur and some other bones; these remains were later be identified as belonging to a primitive penguin, the oldest found so far in the area, and is the only evidence known about the origin of those flightless birds. Nevertheless, with only those partial remains, palaeontologist were quite contended, because even such findings are rare and more than enough for them to begin any sort of studies.


Fossil snail found at Cerro Plataforma, Patagonia.
Fossil snail found at Cerro Plataforma, Patagonia.

So, relatively little is known about the evolution of birds; of course, it is known that they come from dinosaurs and for various reasons they can be considered as the last dinosaur family alive, kicking and of course, flying; birds have been particularly successful, and nearly 10.000 species are known, and the number seems to be growing as birds diversify continuously.


Searching for fossils.
Searching for fossils.

Curiously enough, the six specimens of Archaeopteryx found - the first known bird - coming back from the Jurassic, have been all superbly preserved in limestone: even the feathers can be seen printed. This is quite unusual, and since the skeleton of these little, primitive birds is so similar to a typical dinosaur, had the feathers not been preserved, nobody would have noticed that in fact, those little fellows were indeed birds.



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