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[davis@kahaku.go.jp: Confuciusornis birds]

Mickey - I couldn't let this go without commenting.  One of my research
areas are these Asian birds and whilst not wanting to get into the
commercial debate I thought I should at least provide correct scientific
information regarding these specimens

I realise that Jeff reposted this so I would like to correct some of the
science regarding these specimens.

>>Recently a small handful of extremely rare lower Cretaceous or possibly 
>>upper Jurassic fossilized birds have been discovered.  

I have personally seen and photographed just under 40 specimens of these
specimens - they are not rare - infact they are reasonably abundant and
more are turning up as the locality is being commercially worked for these
specimens.  There are rarer bird specimens from this site including
enantiornithines and some other "weird" things.  My decision to track down
these specimens is to provide a pictorial record for bona fide researchers
in this field before the specimens are 'lost' on the commercial market and
as such I have given copies of these photographs away free to colleagues. 
I  was able to do this by posing as  a potential buyer to dealers here in
Japan (which is the main smuggling route for these specimens).

>>These 139 million year old birds have been brought to America from
>>the Liaoning Province of China.  These new birds have been named
>>Confuciusornis and are archaeraptors.

Archaeraptors ???!!! I think there is no such thing and this is
marketing hype.

>>They  morphologically resemble Archaeopteryx and Hesperonis. 

They don't resemble Archaeo or Hesperornis and are very distinct (again
Marketing hype using the names of the only mesozoic birds they know)

>>The claws and head are very similar to terrestrial raptors.

They are pretty normal avian claws and don't overly resemble 'raptors'
(there is no such thing )
>> They  have 3 wing claws probably used for climbing trees.  

Yes three clawed manus - climbing tress -maybe

>>The wings (complete with feather impressions inlaid in the matrix)
>>were used for gliding and due to the hollow bones may have been one
>>of the first to achieve extended flight.

All specimens I have seen do indeed have a complete compliment of feathers
both on the body and wings.  Overly simple ideas on flight see the millions
of postings on this newsgroup

>>These birds lived near water and had teeth that were probably used to eat
>>insects and small fish.  

NO! One of the defining characters of Confuc. is that it is endentulous
along with an easily recognised large fenestra in the humeral head.

>>They are thought to be part of the link between dinosaurs and modern
>>day birds and may be directly related to Archaeopteryx.

Systematic position is unsure and work at present is being carried out on
the cladistics of these early birds.

>>If interested in more information contact me quick, there are less then 
>>a dozen in existence and are highly sought after.

See above.

If any one is interested in more science info on these specimens or the
legal standing of purchasing them for museums (their very illegal BTW and
the Chinese gov. has the right to reclaim them) or any information on what
the palaeornithological community is doing to stop the traffic in these
fossils then please reply off line (after all this is a dino list).

Dr. Paul G. Davis
Division of Vertebrate Palaeontology, National Science Museum, 3-23-1
Hyakunin-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 169, Japan.
e-mail davis@kahaku.go.jp
Tel + 81 3 3364 2311
Fax. + 81 3 3364 7104