Canadaga arctica

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Canadaga arctica

Prehistoric remains of birds have been found in the Arctic fossil record.  While dinosaurs roamed the planet so did giant birds, some that lived in the warm Arctic waters.

Image: A neck vertebrate from Canadaga arctica.

3D View: Canadaga arctica
Two aquatic birds.

Why this species is important

Scientists from the Canadian Museum of Nature found part of the backbones or vertebrae belonging to a prehistoric bird family called Hesperornithidae.  This specific bird, Canadaga arctica (its scientific name), named after the Canadian Arctic region in which it was discovered, was a bird that lived in warm Arctic waters 80 million years ago.


The Continental Drift

The Earth is constantly changing.  Over millions of years the planet’s continents have shifted and continue to do so today.  This geological phenomenon is known as the Continental Drift.

Associated with these drifts are specific geological time periods when air temperature and life on Earth was very different than present day.

This interactive image shows how the Earth’s continents have shifted over millions of years.  400 million years ago the Earth’s land masses were close to one another and near the equator.  Around every 100 million years there were major landmass shifts. By 10 million years ago, the Earth’s continents were located in their current positions.

A map of the world showing the continents shifting between 400 and 10 million years ago.
10 million years ago
400 million years ago

A flightless bird


Canadaga arctica was a bird, but after scientists studied its physical characteristics they found that this type of bird did not have the appropriate wing structure to support flight.

Every species on Earth has evolved to have very unique traits that make up who and what they are. At times, some of these physical traits are ‘leftovers’ from evolutionary ancestors who once used these features for various reasons such as the environment in which they lived or the predators they once had to escape from.


Physical traits


Canadaga arctica was a large bird that was around 2.5 metres in length.  Living in shallow Arctic seas during a time known as the Cretaceous period, this bird had a beak and a mouth full of teeth that it used to hold prey.


A fossil date


Many Canadaga arctica fossils date to 67 million years ago, a time just before the giant extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs.