Thursday, May 07, 2015

Archaeornithura, A New Early Cretaceous Ornithuromorph Bird

The oldest record of ornithuromorpha from the early cretaceous of China. 2015. Wang, M., et. al. Nature Communications

Abstract: Ornithuromorpha is the most inclusive clade containing extant birds but not the Mesozoic Enantiornithes. The early evolutionary history of this avian clade has been advanced with recent discoveries from Cretaceous deposits, indicating that Ornithuromorpha and Enantiornithes are the two major avian groups in Mesozoic.

Here we report on a new ornithuromorph bird, Archaeornithura meemannae gen. et sp. nov., from the second oldest avian-bearing deposits (130.7 Ma) in the world. The new taxon is referable to the Hongshanornithidae and constitutes the oldest record of the Ornithuromorpha.

However, A. meemannae shows few primitive features relative to younger hongshanornithids and is deeply nested within the Hongshanornithidae, suggesting that this clade is already well established. The new discovery extends the record of Ornithuromorpha by five to six million years, which in turn pushes back the divergence times of early avian lingeages into the Early Cretaceous.