It was around two decades back that Maarten van Dinther, an amateur fossil hunter discovered a featureless block of rock. But now, the same rock has helped researchers to know more about the oldest direct relative of modern birds, now known among scientists as 'wonder chicken'.

An unexpected discovery

Scientists were able to know more about this ancient bird after they discovered its skull in the block of rock initially found by van Dinther. The International team of scientists who analyzed the fossil revealed that these birds might have roamed across the earth around 66.7 million years ago, just 7,00,000 years before that doomsday asteroid hit which wiped out dinosaurs from the surface of the blue planet.

wonder chicken
Image of the skull of the oldest known modern bird, Asteriornis maastrichtensis Daniel J Field/University of Cambridge

The study report published in journal Nature reveals that scientists have named this bird Asteriornis. This ancient bird shares similarities to both ducks and hens and scientists consider this species as the oldest fowl that walked along with dinosaurs. Experts also believe that this new finding could help to know more astonishing details about avian history.

Wonder Chicken lived with T-Rex

This is for the first time that scientists have discovered such a well-preserved skull of a bird that lived alongside dinosaurs in the ancient days.

"This is the first time we've seen the well-preserved skull of a modern bird from the age of dinosaurs. Asteriornis provides us with our clearest glimpse yet of what modern birds were like at the ... a point in time when T-Rex and Triceratops were still alive," said Daniel Field, a paleontologist at the University of Cambridge and the lead author of the study, National Geographic reports.

A few months back, a team of researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences had discovered a very tiny dinosaur that weighed just 300 grams. interestingly, these creatures had bat-like wings, and scientists revealed that it had flown across the skies during the Jurassic era.