Ancient turkey-dinosaur found in museum after collecting dust for 90 years

A fossil discovered in 1933 was eventually identified as new species.

The fossil had remained unidentified in the archives of the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut, for 89 years before it was officially confirmed to be a new species of turkey-like a dinosaur named Centuriavis lioae, according to an article published in the Journal of Paleontology.

The species was named for Suzanne Lio, Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of the Bruce Museum.

“I’m so grateful to even have been considered for this honor,” Lio said in a statement. “I am truly fortunate to work for the Bruce Museum where I am surrounded by such an incredible and dedicated team of employees. It is truly a celebration for all of us at the Bruce.”

Centuriavis lioae are believed to have lived around 11 million years ago and are a distant relative of modern day turkeys and grouse. The fossil was first discovered in 1933 in Nebraska, but had not been examined until now. Having lived long after the Cretaceous extinction caused by a asteroid impact about 66 million years ago, this species has only some of the characteristics of a traditional dinosaur.

A file photo of a turkey (left) and a raptor dinosaur with feathers (right). A turkey-like dinosaur fossil has been identified as a new species after being deposited in museum archives for nearly 100 years.
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“I love that everyone calls it a dinosaur. That’s 100% accurate, but it’s also a bird, related to today’s grouse and turkeys. The specimen is beautifully preserved and shows that Centuriavis was about the size of a sage grouse, which is about half the size of a large farm chicken, and if he looked like his parents, he was probably a social and handsome member of the prairies. in developing North America,” said Ashley Poust, a paleontology researcher at the San Diego Museum of Natural History. Newsweek.

This surprisingly long period of time between discovery and identification is not uncommon in the field.

“Museums often contain hundreds of thousands or millions of specimens, and these have been collected over the past 100 years or more. Often, paleontologists or biologists return from an expedition to new territory with huge collections of specimensand can take literally years or decades to sort, clean, identify and catalog everything,” said Mike Benton, professor of vertebrate paleontology at the University of Bristol. Newsweek.

“With fossils, specimens can be encased in rock, and it can sometimes take an expert fossil preparer (a technician) several weeks or months to do the painstaking work of removing the rock attached to a delicate skeleton before ‘he is ready for study or exhibition.’

In addition, newer technologies like DNA sequencing can lead to the identification of more recent species long after they have arrived in a museum.

“Museum collections contain millions of specimens of fossil and living organisms, but there are not enough scientists to study all of them; they are like a huge library where many books have not been fully read, so scrutinizing museum collections can yield some fantastic new discoveries.

“An important new development is DNA technology – all major museums hold collections of DNA as well as physical specimens. Often, analysis of this DNA reveals that what we once thought was a single species is in makes a complex of several ‘cryptic species’ that are very similar, but reproductively isolated and genetically distinct,” said Michael Lee, professor of evolutionary biology at Flinders University. Newsweek.

This may mean that specimens buried in museum archives around the world could eventually find themselves identified as new species with advances in technology.

“It makes me happy to think of all the studies that will happen in the future, when new technologies that we can barely imagine today are applied to fossils and other objects that museums have patiently secured for decades,” Steve Brusatte, a vertebrate paleontologist and evolutionary biologist at the University of Edinburgh, said Newsweek.

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