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.