"The study of Mesozoic birds is currently one of the most exciting fields; new discoveries continue to drastically change how we view them," said Jingmai O'Connor, lead author of the study. The article appeared in the March issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
The new bird, named "Longicrusavis houi," belongs to a group of birds known as ornithuromorphs (Ornithuromorpha), which are rare in rocks of this age. Ornithuromorphs are more closely related to modern birds than are most of the other birds from the Jehol Biota.
"Longicrusavis adds to the magnificent diversity of ancient birds, many of them sporting teeth, wing claws, and long bony tails, that recently have been unearthed from northeastern China," said Luis Chiappe, a co-author of the study.
Along with a bird described five years ago, Longicrusavis provides evidence for a new, specialized group of small birds that diversified during the Early Cretaceous between about 130 and 120 million years ago.
"The new discovery adds information not only on the diversity these birds, but also on the possible lakeshore environment in which this bird lived," said co-author Gao Ke-Qin.