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("fish bird") a remarkably bird-like animal that lived in North America during the Late Cretaceous, 95-85 million years ago
Looking much like a modern seagull, Ichthyornis was about 2 feet long and weighed about 5 pounds. It differed from all modern birds, however, by having sharp teeth, as well as a combination of vertebrae which are concave both in front and back similar to some modern fish, hence its name. Its skeletal structure suggests strong flight ability.
The type specimen of Ichthyornis dispar was discovered in Kansas by Benjaim Franklin Mudge in 1872. Mudge sent his find to Othneil Charles Marsh, who initially said that the specimen actually contained two distinct skeletons, a small bird (which he named Icthyornis due to the similarity of its vetebrae to fish) and the toothed jaws of an unknown reptile (which he named Colonosaurus mudgei). Marsh had changed his mind by 1873, however, and subsequently placed the specimen in a new sub-class of birds called Odontornithes ("toothed birds"), order Ichthyornithes, in which he also included the newly named Apatornis.
Since then, more Ichthyornis fossils have been discovered in Kansas, as well as Alabama, New Mexico and Texas in the United States and the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.
This page was last updated on 02/27/2017.