Scientists have discovered an ancient bird with a very long, twisted windpipe.
A well-preserved skeleton of an ancient pheasant has been found on the northeastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau in China. It is believed to have lived between 7 million and 11 million years ago, according to a new study published in Scientific Reports.
“This bird’s windpipe is special because it coiled around at least twice outside of the chest, and it looks like it might have even looped back towards the leg before returning back up to enter the chest cavity and attach to the lungs,” said study lead author, paleontologist Li Zhiheng.
The windpipe was found to be longer than the bird’s body, the study reveals. Birds with longer windpipes produce louder and lower frequency sounds than birds with windpipes of an average length—a trait which allows these creatures to sound like much larger than they actually are.
“The fossil also shows the struggle to sound like the best, biggest, or baddest bird has been going on for millions of years.” said co-author, paleontologist Thomas Stidham.