The Echoes of Toothed Birds

Whenever I spot a grebe, I try to imagine the bird with teeth. This is another symptom of a chronically fossiliferous mind. You see, these snake-necked swimming birds have traditionally been taken as a proxy for a specific sort of ancient avian called hesperornithiforms. Best known by, as you might guess, Hesperornis - these toothed birds pioneered the diving lifestyle between 113 and 66 million years ago. Today's grebes and loons look like edentulous echos of these lost Cretaceous days, or, as beautifully expressed by ornithologist William Beebe:

When in the depth of the winter, a full hundred miles from the nearest land, one sees ...

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