WELLINGTON, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) -- A fossil of one of the world's oldest flying seabirds has been found in New Zealand, linking the country to Antarctica when it was still being formed, scientists announced Wednesday.
The bones of the new species, found in greensand deposits in North Canterbury, on the South Island, dated from the Paleocene age, about 58 million years ago, according to scientists from Canterbury Museum and Germany's Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum.
They were formed in the deep waters of a very warm sea off the coast of Zealandia, the continental fragment that New Zealand rests upon, shortly after the event that caused the mass extinction of the dinosaurs and many marine organisms, said a statement from Canterbury Museum.
The species had been named Australornis lovei after amateur fossil collector Leigh Love, who discovered it in the deposits where the world's oldest penguin, Waimanu, was found.
Australornis appeared to be most similar to two species described from the late Cretaceous period (around 70 million years ago) of the Antarctic Peninsula and highlighted the links between Antarctica and New Zealand in the late Cretaceous and early Paleocene periods.
"This new species is important in our understanding of bird evolution because although there are a number of bird groups described from the late Cretaceous, most belong to groups not present on earth today," Dr. Paul Scofield, of Canterbury Museum, said in the statement.