New study reveals, how did birds lose their teeth and get their beaks

A CT-scan image of the skull of an ancient bird shows how one of the earliest bird beaks worked as a pincer, in the way beaks of modern birds do, but also had teeth left over from dinosaur ancestors. The animal, called Ichthyornis, lived around 100 million years ago in what is now North America.

Scientists are one step closer to understanding how modern birds evolved to have beaks, and the answer starts millions of years ago with some of the sexiest dinosaurs.

Modern gulls, with their large eyes, long beaks and distinctly ancient-looking and bony faces, descended from animals such as the velociraptor and T. Rex. (Next time you get a hungry look from a seagull, remember that.) For more than a century, paleontologists have used fossils from all over the world to piece together how large, toothy, land-bound lizards evolved into flying, toothless, feathered animals.

The key is fossils of so-called stem birds, which are ancient birdlike dinosaurs that offer clues about the bones and brains of modern birds. One such creature, Ichthyornis dispar, is the subject of a newly published study that fills in some of the missing links in the evolution of birds.

Bhart-Anjan Bhullar, an assistant professor of geology and geophysics at Yale University said, Ichthyornis had the aspect of a seabird, like gull or a tern.

 It had a long beak and large eyes, and lived in Kansas back when Kansas was an inland sea, between 100 million and 66 million years ago. But it had two things modern gulls don't: teeth and a muscular jaw to use those teeth.

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