A 25 million year old fossilised footprint (ichnite) found in Cenicero (La Rioja), dating back to the Miocene period, have allowed scientists to discover a hitherto unknown species of bird, belonging to the crane family, which has been named "Uvaichnites riojana".
One of the paleontologists who discovered the fossilised footprint, Félix Pérez Lorente, a professor at La Rioja University, confirmed that the tridactyle (three-toed) bird is an "important discovery" in scientific terms.
The "Uvaichnites riojana" has a similar footprint to the common crane, and, although there are very few references to the presence of this family of birds on the Iberian Peninsula, could confirm the presence of cranes from the early Miocene period.
The fossilised footprint was found alongside footprints from other birds and land vertebrates, including a small horse.
The central toe of the "Uvaichnites riojana" is about 10cm long, suggesting the bird would have been "relatively large", said Lorente.
The ichnites were actually discoverd about three years ago, during construction work on a cellar in Cenicero, where 14 blocks of sandstone with fossilised footprints from numerous different vertebrates were found.
All in all, 142 footprints were analysed, of which 72 belonged to birds, 46 to Artiodactyla - even-toed ungulates (hoofed mammals), six to Perissodactyla (odd-toed ungulates) and 18 were unknown.