Monday, 16 June 2014

Amazing Preservation of Soft Stomach Content for “47 Million Years” in Tiny Bird

A Green Violet-ear is a modern hummingbird. Researchers have found the stomach contents of an 8- centimetre-long ancient bird. Image courtesy of Wikipedia (GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2).

Joel Kontinen

How long can a bird’s stomach content be preserved?

Researchers at the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum in Frankfurt, Germany, report that they have discovered the stomach content of a “47-million-year-old” bird that was roughly 8 centimetres long and weighed 5–10 grams.

Gerald Mayr and Volker Wilde write in the journal Biology Letters:

Birds are important pollinators, but the evolutionary history of ornithophily (bird pollination) is poorly known. Here, we report a skeleton of the avian taxon Pumiliornis from the middle Eocene of Messel in Germany with preserved stomach contents containing numerous pollen grains of an eudicotyledonous angiosperm. The skeletal morphology of Pumiliornis is in agreement with this bird having been a, presumably nectarivorous, flower-visitor. It represents the earliest and first direct fossil evidence of flower-visiting by birds and indicates a minimum age of 47 million years for the origin of bird–flower interactions. As Pumiliornis does not belong to any of the modern groups of flower-visiting birds, the origin of ornithophily in some angiosperm lineages may have predated that of their extant avian pollinators.”

It seems that almost every month we hear about a spectacular find hailing from tens if not hundreds of millions of years ago about soft tissue or something else that could hardly be preserved well for so long.

This would call for questioning the evolutionary dogma of millions of years.


Mayr, Gerald and Volker Wilde. 2014. Eocene fossil is earliest evidence of flower-visiting by birds. Biology Letters 10 (5) (May 2014).