Thursday, 11 January 2018

Soft Eye Tissue Found in "120-Million-Year-Old" Bird

The early bird might have looked like this. Image courtesy of Nobu Tamura, CC BY 3.0.

Joel Kontinen

A sparrow-sized dino-era bird found in the Liaoning Province in China could most probably see in colour.

An analysis of the 120-million-year-old bird revealed that the creature's eye tissues — more specially, its rods and cones — had fossilized in remarkable condition,” an article on Live Science suggests.

The article goes on to say:

These oil droplets are located on the tip of the color-sensing cone cells and act like a color filter on a camera lens. For example, red-colored oil droplets would cover red-sensing cone cells, allowing birds (as well as turtles and possibly dinosaurs) to see the color red.”

What is more, the “oil droplets were similar in size to those seen in living birds,” i.e. no evolution has occurred in “120 million years,” prompting Baochun Zhou, an associate professor of paleontology at the Shanghai Natural History Museum, to say the discovery "indicates that the complex optical system of cone cells had already been achieved by 120 million years ago."

There are serious problems with radiometric dating, so it might be wise not to be too dogmatic about dates that go into millions of years.

Some dino-age birds looked like today’s birds, and previous research has shown that an early bird preened its feathers, just like modern ones.


Geggel, Laura. 2018. This Bird 'Eyeball' Survived 120 Million Years. Live Science (11 January).