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A bird’s vocal organ from the Cretaceous

From tweets to honks, birds make sounds with the syrinx, an organ derived from a modification of the reinforced rings at the base of the trachea where it divides into bronchi. Apart from fragmentary remains from the Pleistocene and Holocene epochs, and a single find from the Eocene epoch that has not been formally described, the fossil record of the syrinx is blank. Here Julia Clarke et al. describe the first syrinx from the age of dinosaurs. It comes from a new specimen of Vegavis iaai from the Cretaceous period of Antarctica. Vegavis was a bird related to modern ducks and geese, and study of its fossilized syrinx shows that it would have been a ‘honker’, like its modern relatives.

Nature 538, 7626 table of contents

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