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Dallas Resident Re-Writes Ancient Bird History


by Jerome Weeks 18 Mar 2010

It’s just a grey, tiny-tiny drumstick-looking thing — yes, only about four centimeters long. It’s  part of the wing of the oldest-known bird fossil in the United States. It’s now in the collection of the Museum of Science and Nature. The prehistoric tweety was found by  Dallas resident Kris Howe near the Grapevine Lake Dam […]

CTA TBD

It’s just a grey, tiny-tiny drumstick-looking thing — yes, only about four centimeters long. It’s  part of the wing of the oldest-known bird fossil in the United States. It’s now in the collection of the Museum of Science and Nature.

The prehistoric tweety was found by  Dallas resident Kris Howe near the Grapevine Lake Dam Spillway, and he brought it to the museum. (Previously, the spillway area has been the source for fossils of sharks, bony fishes, turtles and dinosaurs.) Two museum paleontologists, Ronald Tykoski and Anthony Fiorillo, are announcing their find this morning in a press conference and in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. Flexonormis howei (named for Howe) is officially a Cretaceous enantiornithine, referring to an extinct group of birds with teeth and clawed hands who left no living descendants. The description fits a few of my relatives.

Flex pushes back North American bird history by some 10 million years to around 95 million years. It’s now one of the museum’s most valuable fossils, so it will be shown today but will not be on permanent display. A bird carving indicating its roadrunner-ish size and shape will be the fossil’s body double.

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  • Tim Dalbey

    Perhaps this was a flightless bird. If so, perhaps the suspect bird footprints along with with dinosaur footprints recorded at Grapevine lake in the 1980’s and mapped by John Congleton from SMU belonged to this bird. The authors do not go into this much or the 1997 paper by Lee about the footprints.

    • Kris Howe

      Hi Kris Howe here, I found the bones of Flexomornis howei and enlisted the help of Dr. Tony Fiorillo and Dr. Ron Tykoski in the identification. The prints previously known from Lake Grapevine are much too large to be from Flexomornis. They are from an animal like a heron…wouldn’t it be cool if bones from that animal were recovered from the area? Wouldn’t it be cool for the Museum of Naure and Science to have 2 birds from the Woodbine Formation? The possibility of Flexomornis being a flightless bird is high. The bones are similar to Elsornis from Mongolia. The authors of the paper describing noted that it may have been flightless due to shortened wing bones, etc. Drs. Tykoski and Fiorillo speculate that F. howei may have been flightless.

  • Hi Kris,

    Long time, no talk. Congratulations, what a find! Paleontologists more often than not spend their entire lives 24/7 looking for a unique find and do not. You are blessed.

  • Kris Howe

    Hi Kyle,

    Wow, blast from the past!!! How are you brother? I just stumbled across your reply.