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January 8 2013

Ancient birds had teeth -- strong ones

DEERFIELD, Ill., Jan. 7 (UPI) -- An early ancestor of today's birds had teeth -- and not just any teeth, but ones evolved for a special diet, U.S. paleontologists say.

Writing in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, researchers say a study of a species of early bird, Sulcavis geeorum, suggests it had a durophagous diet, meaning the bird's teeth were capable of eating prey with hard exoskeletons like insects or crabs.

The new specimen, a fossil from the Early Cretaceous period of 121 million to 125 million years ago, greatly increases the known diversity of tooth shape in early birds and hints at previously unrecognized ecological diversity, they said.

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