17 aug. 2019
Masillastega is one of the earliest known relatives of modern-day gannets and boobies and, even though the species lived about 49 million years ago in the Eocene of Europe, it looked remarkably similar. It was about the same size as a brown booby and had a similar conical-shaped beak. A major difference was its habitat; gannets and boobies are bound to marine habitats while Masillastega lived near a sub-tropical freshwater lake. Based on its beak, it probably hunted fish and maybe even amphibians. The size of its beak, being a bit longer compared to modern gannets and boobies, probably made it unfit for plunge diving; a technique all gannets and boobies use to catch fish, diving from a certain height into the water.
Masillastega is known from only one skull, found in the Messel quarry in 2002 in Germany. Scientists were uncertain about the proper order, comparing Masillastega to modern-day gannets, storks and hamerkop. Masillastega is one of the few large bird species found in the Messel quarry, making it a very important discovery.
Mayr, G. (2002). A skull of a new pelecaniform bird from the Middle Eocene of Messel, Germany. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, 47(3).