Giant dinosaur chicken fossils, cannabis-loving bees and other wacky food stories you may have missed this week

We’ve all been – understandably – distracted by current events. That means, however, you’ve probably missed some of the more unusual food-related stories of the last few days. Allow Neil Davey to bring you up to speed…

Giant dinosaur chicken fossils, cannabis-loving bees and other wacky food stories you may have missed this week

Wonderchicken fossil discovery

You may have missed the discovery, in a quarry on the Belgian/Dutch border, of the ‘Wonderchicken’. 

Sadly, it’s not a bird so large it will solve the world’s hunger problems. Instead, it’s the oldest fossil ever found of a ‘modern’ bird and, according to Cambridge’s Dr Daniel Field, the very excited palaeontologist leading the research, “one of the best-preserved fossil bird skulls of any age, from anywhere in the world.”

The so-called ‘Wonderchicken’ is not very big at all, in fact the bird was about the size of a poussin (400g).  The 66.7 million-year-old fossil skull was hidden in a piece of rock the approximate size of a deck of cards and only identified with the help of high-resolution X-ray scans. 

“We almost had to pinch ourselves when we saw it,” Said Dr Field, “knowing that it was from such an important time in Earth’s history.” 

Dating from less than one million years before a massive asteroid hit the earth, scientists hope it might help them discover why birds survived the cataclysmic event but dinosaurs did not. Dr Field describes the skull as coming from a bird that was a kind of ‘mash-up’ of a chicken and a duck,  which, frankly, sounds delicious. 

Can cannabis help save the dwindling bee population? 

It’s not been an easy few years for bees but, finally, there’s good news. The legalisation of cannabis and the rapid expansion of hemp production appears to have provided a solution to boosting bees’ falling numbers. 

Bees

Research by Cornell University suggests that bees (like some humans) are highly attracted to cannabis. Although the plant doesn’t produce the sweet nectar that usually attracts them, it does produce a very large amount of pollen that the bees are finding hard to resist. That means: a) the research may have found new ways to support the dwindling bee population; and b) you can insert your own ‘buzzed’ joke here. 

An Arctic global seed vault exists

In other good news for bees – and the planet – the Arctic global seed vault now contains over a million varieties, having broken that milestone number in March 2020. And, in other news, yes, there’s an Arctic global seed vault. So that’s nice. 

arctic seed vault
Credit: Miksu

The vault is carved into the rock underneath Svalbard, Norway and houses a ‘failsafe’ store of the world’s crops, so they can be replaced in the event of climate emergency, pests, or even war. It’s also now waterproof following a €20 million refurbishment after the permafrost that used to encase the vault melted – a move that simultaneously protects and proves the need for the Arctic seed bank. 

Did fish once have fingers?

There’s been another important palaeontology breakthrough in Canada, and it’s one that Captain Birdseye long predicted. 

fish fingers

The stage from fish to tetrapod – the four-legged vertebrates (including humans) that dominate the planet – was one of the most significant events in evolution. Scientists have recently announced the discovery of a true ‘missing link’, a tetrapod-like fish, called Elpistostege watsoni, where the fish’s fin shows the presence of bones normally found in the arm, wrist-like joints and ‘phalanges organised in digits’ – or, if you prefer, literal fish fingers. 

If you’re looking for Trouble…

And finally… With an admittedly slightly tenuous connection to food, two Welsh goats have become an internet sensation after escaping their pen and having to be coaxed down from their neighbour’s roof.

It’s not the first time the goats, called Mabel and Trouble have caused a stir. “They tend to get out of wherever they are,” admitted owner Fay Wilson-Yeates, explaining they’ve even tried to board the village bus in the past. 

Have we missed any other brilliant (and wacky) food stories this week? Let us know in the comments below.

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