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Confuciusornis gender identification

From: Ben Creisler

Also in Nature Communications:

Anusuya Chinsamy, Luis M. Chiappe, Jesús Marugán-Lobón, Gao Chunling &
Zhang Fengjiao (2013)
Gender identification of the Mesozoic bird Confuciusornis sanctus.
Nature Communications 4, Article number: 1381

Hundreds of specimens of the beaked bird Confuciusornis sanctus have
been recovered from Early Cretaceous lake deposits of northeastern
China. These birds show remarkable variation in size and plumage, with
some displaying two long, central ornamental rectrices (tail feathers)
and others lacking them altogether. Although, traditionally specimens
with ornamental rectrices were interpreted as males and those without
them as females, this supposed sexual dimorphism has remained
unconfirmed. Here we report on the discovery of medullary bone, a
tissue unique to reproductively active female birds, in a specimen of
C. sanctus (DNHM-D1874) lacking these feathers. Our discovery
constitutes the first case of gender identification in a Mesozoic
bird, and it provides undisputed evidence that individuals of C.
sanctus without ornamental rectrices are females. By permitting gender
identification in C. sanctus, our results provide insight into the
onset of sexual maturity and attainment of adult body size of this and
other early birds.

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