Alexornis is an extinct, prehistoric bird, which lived at the time of the dinosaurs. It was a small, sparrow-like animal with feathers and a toothed beak.
Alexornis lived in an environment of warm, coastal lagoons, swamps, mudflats and forest. It lived alongside dinosaurs like Lambeosaurus.
Alexornis and other early birds are thought to have had similar perceptions to modern birds. Archaeopteryx, one of the earlier bird-like dinosaurs, had heightened auditory and sensory perception in the ear and was well adapted to life on the wing.
Most enantiornithine birds like Alexornis possessed teeth. In fact, there were a variety of different forms of teeth. Like the varied beaks of Darwin's finches, these ancient birds had specialised teeth, well adapted to suit the varying diets of different species.
Alexornis might have smelled like a dinosaur. Early birds have been studied and found to have had a respectable sense of smell. This sense was eventually lost in later birds as they moved towards a heightened sense of vision and balance.
Alexornis is known from just one fragmentary fossil of the shoulder, wing and leg. It was discovered by HJ Garbani and J Loewe in 1971 in Baja California, Mexico. Because the remains are so fragmentary, the majority of our knowledge of Alexornis is inferred from other members of their group, the Enantiornithes.
Height: 0.2m (0.7ft)
Length: 0.15m (0.5ft)
Weight: 0.3kg (0.7lbs)
Top speed: 45kph (28mph)
Vision: Eyesight would have been Alexornis' most important sense. For a life in the skies, good binocular vision is essential.
Skin: Alexornis, like its close relatives, had feathers similar to today's birds. These were asymmetrical flight feathers, which indicates considerable flight capability.
Brain: Alexornis is thought to have had an enlarged forebrain, consistent with other birds leading a life in the air.
Prey: Alexornis probably, like other enantiornithines, relied on their teeth rather than beak to manipulate their food.
Bite: We know very little about the feeding habits of Alexornis. Some enantiornithines had large, robust jaws for eating hard-shelled invertebrates, others had long snouts and thin teeth at the tip of their jaws for probing mud and others had larger teeth for fishing.
Nest: The remnants of a mass breeding colony of an enantiornithine bird has been found in Romania. Given the large volume of eggshells, this colony must have been considerable, consisting of hundreds of nests. The site is consistent with ground nesting birds and is thought to have been left by close relatives of Alexornis.