An ancient bird that lived 99 million years ago had freaky third toes that were even longer than its lower legs.
Researchers discovered the bird foot that had a 'hyper-elongated' third toe preserved in amber that was found in Myanmar around 2014.
Based on their scans and analysis of the foot, they suggest that the bird — which was smaller than a sparrow — may have used its toes to hook food out of tree trunks.
This find represents the first time that such a bizarre foot structure has been observed in any bird, either extinct or living.
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An ancient bird that lived 99 million years ago had freaky third toes that were even longer than its lower legs. Pictured, an artist's impression of the bird, Elektorornis chenguangi
The golden-coloured translucent substance is formed when resin from extinct coniferous trees became hardened and then fossilised.
Amber has been used in jewellery for thousands of years.
It is often found to contain remarkably well-preserved materials from eras long since passed.
Often insects, other creatures, plant material and pollen became trapped in the resin.
These were then entombed within the amber after it had solidified.
Palaeontologist Lida Xing of the China University of Geosciences in Beijing and colleagues examined the bird by scanning the amber and creating a three-dimensional reconstruction of the fossil creature's foot.
'I was very surprised when I saw the amber,' Professor Xing said.
'It shows that ancient birds were way more diverse than we thought. They had evolved many different features to adapt to their environments.'
The researchers found that the bird's third toe — which measured at 0.38 inches (9.8 millimetres) — is 41 per cent longer than its second toe.
The freakish digit is even 20 per cent longer than the bird's lower leg bone, the so-called tarsometatarsus.
The team compared these ratios with those of 62 living birds and 20 other extinct birds from the same era.
They found that none of these birds have a foot that resembles this one.
Researchers have named the bird Elektorornis chenguangi, with the first part of its moniker meaning 'amber bird'
Elektorornis belongs to an extinct group of birds called the Enantiornithes, which are the most abundant type of bird known from the Mesozoic era.
Experts believe that Enantiornithines all went extinct during the so-called Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event around 66 million years ago which is famous for killing off the dinosaurs.
The Enantiornithines have no living descendants.
Based on their scans and analysis of the foot, they suggest that the bird — which was smaller than a sparrow — may have used its toes to hook food out of tree trunks
Based on their analysis of