Ducks may have been paddling about in primeval
swamps when T rex was king of the dinosaurs, scientists have
announced in the journal Nature.
Fossil remains of a bird that lived 70 million
years ago appear to belong to a relative of modern ducks and geese. The partial skeleton, discovered on Vega Island,
western Antarctica, is likely to stir up controversy.
Many scientists believe modern bird lineages did
not evolve until the end of the dinosaurs' reign.
Although the first known primitive bird,
Archaeopteryx, lived in the Jurassic Period 150 million years ago,
researchers disagree over when modern birds made their first
One camp believes many modern bird lineages existed as long as 100
million years ago. According to this vision, familiar looking birds
would have been running and flying about alongside dinosaurs.
In contrast, the other camp thinks that, although
birds did exist during the Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods, they
were largely wiped out by whatever killed the dinosaurs. According to this theory, only a few lineages made
it through the mass extinction and, subsequently, these lonely
survivors blossomed into all the modern bird families we know today.
The fossil records so far support the latter
version, known as the "big bang" theory of bird evolution. But if the new find, known as Vegavis iaai, really
is a relative of the duck, it would lend considerable weight to the
idea that modern birds lived with dinosaurs and survived whatever
catastrophe killed the "terrible lizards".