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Cretaceous bird changed its diet

Naturwissenschaften, Online First

Short Communication

"Gastroliths in Yanornis: an indication of the earliest radical diet-switching and gizzard plasticity in the lineage leading to living birds?"
Zhonghe Zhou, Julia Clarke, Fucheng Zhang and Oliver Wings

Received: 17 July 2004 Accepted: 15 August 2004 Published online: 28 September 2004

Abstract: Yanornis martini is an Early Cretaceous basal ornithurine bird. Its fish-eating diet was previously recognized from a discrete mass of disarticulated fish remains discovered in its abdominal region. A new complete and articulated specimen of Yanornis martini preserves abundant in-situ gastroliths such as have been associated with a herbivorous diet. We suggest that the occurrence of gastroliths in this specimen, fish remains in a second, and the lack of gastroliths in three others, is consistent with diet-switching in Yanornis martini. Incompatibility of the preserved data with explanations of the grit as an artifact of preservation or result of accidental ingestion is discussed. This discovery indicates the earliest presence of intermittent diet change (and associated gizzard plasticity) observed in extant birds seasonally and in response to changes in available food sources.

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