Odontopteryx toothless jaw section exhibiting several Volkmann's canal structures which are faux teeth. The triangular structures are actually bone tissue vessel to carry blood and have evolved 60 million years ago or so into a useful grasping aid. When the bird was grasping slippery or soft prey from the surface of the water or just under the surface. The Pelagornithidae birds would skim over the seas in pursuit of prey, manly soft-bodied cephalopods it is thought. It is believed the faux teeth were fragile, easily broken and worn down quickly. An excellent and rare specimen of a section of a beak matrix. The overall preservation is good, the beak section is a rare find in the fossil record.
Pelagornithidae birds are toothless pelagic birds of the Palaeocene and Eocene of Morocco. Actually, this thin wall boned flying toothless bird had the appearance of teeth in its beak or jaws, these were, in fact, an anatomical feature termed Volkmann’s canals, in the simplest terms Volkmann's canals are any small channels within the bone that transmit blood vessels. These atomic cortical bone structures appear along the outer edge of the birds' jaws and were not very strong, prone to breaking and quickly worn down. Unlike teeth of dentin, these arrangements were more adapted to holding soft-bodied creatures like cephalopods or fish which enabled the toothless birds to grasp and immediately swallow prey.
The Odontopteryx ranged globally and may not have returned to its birthplace but only to reproduce, having a lifestyle similar to the great Albatross of today. Having very fine or hollow bone structures to enable flight, the downside to this was the light construction which may not have normally supported strenuous activity such as diving into the ocean for prey as is quite often depicted, rather to scoop its prey from the surface or just under the surface, its beak being the only part of its body to feel the full force of flight while skimming across the sea.
The enigmatic Pelagornithidae birds narrowly missed early man on earth, Homo habilis 2.6 million years, Pelagornithidae birds show up in the fossil record from the Palaeocene to the end of the Pliocene a reign of about 50 million years. In the Palaeocene fossils have been found of a size of the great Albatross around 3.5 metres wingspans. It is estimated the largest of the Pelagornithidae attained a size of about 5 to 6 metres, with the ability to fly rather than soar, as at one-time science thought Pterosaurs did only soar, today new research is leaning away from those theories for Pterosaurs. The great Pelagornithidae birds must have dominated the ocean scene in great numbers, ranging over much of the planet.
These remains are from a classic fossil bed site in what is now the Middle Atlas of Morocco, North Africa. As the machinery of the largest industry of Morocco near Casablanca, rolls forward it exhumes thousands of tons of phosphates rock for the production of cement, these fossil bones are dredged up as a by-product. If not foraged immediately they become crushed in the automated machinery along with all other phosphate mineral material.
The pelagic birds (a bird that spends a significant portion of its life on the open ocean, rarely venturing to land except to breed), had, therefore, a vast range and are found from South America to North Africa. However their remains are very scarce, perhaps due to the lightweight frame of birds generally, their bones were easily dispersed and broken down rather than fossilising successfully in sediments.
Genus: Pelagornithidae, Odontopteryx gigas, toothless or false toothed bird, (Possibly Pelagornis mauretanicus).
Age: Ypresian stage. Mesozoic era, Palaeocene, early Eocene, approximately 66,000,000 to 48,000,000 years.
Origin: Phosphate deposits of Khouribga, Ouled Abdoun Basin, Oued Zem, Morocco, North Africa.
Jaw span: 19.0 cm
Matrix: 21.4 cm
Approximate weight: 1,261 Kg