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Oldest parrot fossil found in Scandinavia

28 May 2008

Fossil expert and Bristol graduate Dr David Waterhouse (BSc 2000, PGCE 2001, MSc 2002) has established for the first time that parrots lived in Scandinavia about 55 million years ago when the area was covered in tropical forest.

Fossil expert and Bristol graduate Dr David Waterhouse (BSc 2000, PGCE 2001, MSc 2002) has established for the first time that parrots lived in Scandinavia about 55 million years ago when the area was covered in tropical forest.

The fossil is also much older than the remains of the next-oldest parrot found in the southern hemisphere, which are believed to date back 15 million years. David said: ‘This new evidence suggests that parrots evolved right here in the Northern Hemisphere before diversifying further south in the tropics later on’.

David, who is the assistant curator of Natural History at NorfolkMuseums and Archaeology Service, made his discovery three years ago in Denmark when he spotted the remains in a small museum on the Isle of Mors in Jutland. David, who was studying for a PhD in parrot evolution, was able to establish that the fossilised 6cm long humerus, or upper wing, had all the hallmarks of the parrot family.

The species has been given the scientific name Mopsitta Tanta, however David has nicknamed the bird 'Danish Blue', a term derived from the famous Monty Python comedy sketch about a Norwegian blue parrot.

David's research, supported by the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology and University College Dublin is published in the current issue of Palaeontology journal.