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Large flightless birds in Palaeogene of Europe + other non-dino papers

Ben Creisler

A number of recent non-dino papers that may be of interest:

Eric Buffetaut & Delphine Angst (2014)
Stratigraphic distribution of large flightless birds in the Palaeogene
of Europe and its palaeobiological and palaeogeographical
Earth-Science Reviews 138: 394–408
DOI: 10.1016/j.earscirev.2014.07.001

The stratigraphic distribution of the three main groups of large
flightless birds known from the Palaeogene of Europe, Gastornithidae,
Phorusrhacidae and Ratitae, is reviewed. The huge, herbivorous
gastornithids, represented by the single genus Gastornis, are known
from the Selandian (Middle Palaeocene) to the late Lutetian (Middle
Eocene), being recorded from reference levels MP5 to MP13. The
carnivorous phorusrhacids are represented by a single species,
Eleutherornis cotei, from the late Lutetian (MP14, late Middle
Eocene). The ratites have a patchy distribution, being represented by
two species of moderate size, Remiornis heberti from the Thanetian
(MP6, Late Palaeocene) and Palaeotis weigelti from the Lutetian (MP11
to MP13, Middle Eocene). The stratigraphic distributions of large eggs
referred to gastornithids in the Late Palaeocene and Early Eocene of
southern Europe and the occurrence of enigmatic large avian footprints
in the Late Eocene of France are discussed. Whereas gastornithids and
ratites co-existed in both the Palaeocene and the Middle Eocene,
phorusrhacids seem to have been the only large ground birds in Europe
at the end of the Middle Eocene. The palaeobiogeographical and
evolutionary implications of the stratigraphic distributions of those
groups of large birds in Europe are discussed. As Gastornis first
appears in North America and in Asia in the Early Eocene, it is likely
that gastornithids originated in Europe and later spread to other land
masses during a dispersal event close to the Palaeocene–Eocene
boundary. Prior to that, gastornithids evolved on the European “island
continent”, where they were the largest terrestrial tetrapods during
the Palaeocene. Gastornithids do not seem to have been significantly
affected by the PETM. Ratitae have a more patchy record and
relationships between Remiornis and Palaeotis remain unclear.
Nevertheless, those European forms are among the earliest known
ratites and this should not be overlooked in discussions of ratite
evolution and palaeobiogeography. Phorusrhacids appear to have been
present in Europe for only a short time and are interpreted as the
result of dispersal from Africa followed by local extinction.

Gerald Mayr (2014)
The middle Eocene European “ratite” Palaeotis (Aves, Palaeognathae)
restudied once more.
Paläontologische Zeitschrift (advance online publication)
DOI: 10.1007/s12542-014-0248-y

Palaeotis weigelti is a flightless, “ratite”-like palaeognathous bird,
which occurs in the Middle Eocene of the German fossil sites Messel
and the Geisel Valley. The species is known from several specimens,
most of which are, however, very fragmentary or poorly preserved. Its
phylogenetic affinities are controversial, with earlier authors
especially considering close affinities to Struthionidae and Rheidae,
and some skeletal features were only briefly described. Moreover,
recent molecular analyses congruently indicate that a “ratite”
morphology evolved multiple times within palaeognathous birds. The
skeletal morphology and phylogenetic affinities of Palaeotis are
therefore reanalyzed, and the taxon is subjected to a phylogenetic
analysis based on one of the most comprehensive published data sets
for palaeognathous birds. In addition to the primary analysis, further
analyses were run that were constrained to a backbone topology
reflecting the results of sequence-based studies. In none of these
analyses was a well-supported placement of Palaeotis obtained, and it
is concluded that current data do not convincingly resolve the
affinities of this taxon. Palatal morphology of Palaeotis most closely
resembles that of lithornithids, another group of palaeognathous birds
from the Eocene of the Northern Hemisphere, and there remains a
possibility that the “ratite” features of Palaeotis evolved
independently from those of the extant taxa.


Lida Xing, Matteo Belvedere, Lisa Buckley, Amanda Falk, Martin G.
Lockley, Hendrik Klein, Nasrollah Abbassi, Xianqiu Zhang & Yonggang
Tang (2014)
First Record of Bird Tracks from Paleogene of China (Guangdong Province).
Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology (advance online publication)
DOI: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2014.08.031


We describe the first record of bird tracks from the Paleogene of China
Five morphotypes were identified and assigned to four ichnotaxa
Small tracks are difficult to discriminate and overlap both in
qualitative and quantitative analyses


The record of Paleogene bird traces is quite scarce, especially when
compared with the Mesozoic. Avian tracks have been reported mainly
from western North America and the Middle East, with some sites also
present in Europe and Sumatra. Here the first record of Eocene bird
tracks from East Asia is reported. The track bearing level is recorded
at the upper part of the Huayong Formation (lower Eocene), one of the
continental units of the Sanshui Basin.

More than 350 footprints were documented from three collected slabs.
Many footprints were found in trackways, five morphotypes were
identified and assigned to four ichnotaxon: Gruipeda sp., Aviadactyla
sp., Avipeda sp., and Fuscinapeda sp. The ichnotaxonomical
identifications are supported by canonical variate analysis (CVA)
based on the better preserved traces. These surfaces show a varied
ichnofaunal assemblage composed of small and medium shorebirds, large
“game” birds, crane-like birds and heron-like birds, providing a more
complete picture than was previously known of Early Eocene avian
faunal assemblages in Asia


Juan C. García, Gillian C. Gibb & Steve A. Trewick (2014)
Eocene Diversification of Crown Group Rails (Aves: Gruiformes: Rallidae).
PLoS ONE 9(10): e109635.

Central to our understanding of the timing of bird evolution is debate
about an apparent conflict between fossil and molecular data. A deep
age for higher level taxa within Neoaves is evident from molecular
analyses but much remains to be learned about the age of
diversification in modern bird families and their evolutionary
ecology. In order to better understand the timing and pattern of
diversification within the family Rallidae we used a relaxed molecular
clock, fossil calibrations, and complete mitochondrial genomes from a
range of rallid species analysed in a Bayesian framework. The
estimated time of origin of Rallidae is Eocene, about 40.5 Mya, with
evidence of intrafamiliar diversification from the Late Eocene to the
Miocene. This timing is older than previously suggested for crown
group Rallidae, but fossil calibrations, extent of taxon sampling and
substantial sequence data give it credence. We note that fossils of
Eocene age tentatively assigned to Rallidae are consistent with our
findings. Compared to available studies of other bird lineages, the
rail clade is old and supports an inference of deep ancestry of
ground-dwelling habits among Neoaves.


Paleozoic tetrapods

Roland B. Sookias, Christine Böhmer &  Jennifer A. Clack (2014)
Redescription and Phylogenetic Analysis of the Mandible of an
Enigmatic Pennsylvanian (Late Carboniferous) Tetrapod from Nova
Scotia, and the Lability of Meckelian Jaw Ossification.
PLoS ONE 9(10): e109717
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0109717

The lower jaw of an unidentified Pennsylvanian (Late Carboniferous)
tetrapod from Nova Scotia – the “Parrsboro jaw”- is redescribed in the
light of recent tetrapod discoveries and work on evolution of tetrapod
mandibular morphology and placed for the first time in a numerical
cladistics analysis. All phylogenetic analyses place the jaw in a
crownward polytomy of baphetids, temnospondyls, and embolomeres.
Several features resemble baphetids and temnospondyls including dermal
ornamentation, absence of coronoid teeth, and presence of coronoid
shagreen. Dentary dentition is most similar to Baphetes. An
adsymphysial toothplate may not preclude temnospondyl affinity. An
apparent large exomeckelian fenestra, with the dorsal foraminal
margins formed by an unossified element, echoes the morphology of the
stem tetrapod Sigournea and is unusually primitive given the other
features of the jaw. The jaw may thus provide an example of an
intermediate stage in Meckelian element evolution.


Posted earlier on the DML but now out in official English translation:

M. A. Shishkin, I. V. Novikov & J. Fortuny (2014)
New bystrowianid chroniosuchians (Amphibia, Anthracosauromorpha) from
the Triassic of Russia and diversification of Bystrowianidae.
Paleontological Journal 48(5): 512-522
DOI: 10.1134/S0031030114050098

The first bystrowianids recorded in the Gamskian Horizon of the East
European Platform, Vyushkoviana operta gen. et sp. nov. and
Dromotectum abditum sp. nov. (Amphibia, Chroniosuchia), are described
based on specimens from the Malaya Northern Dvina and Don river
basins. The patterns of the dermal scute evolution observed in
bystrowianids warrant the subdivision of the group into the
subfamilies Bystrowianinae Vjuschkov 1957, Dromotectinae subfam. nov.
and Axitectinae subfam. nov. The second and third show progressive
reduction of the external (paraxial) zone of the interosteoderm
articulation. New data supporting close proximity or phyletic
succession of the chroniosuchid and bystrowianid types of the
osteoderm design are revealed. The concept of the Chroniosuchidae as a
paraphyletic group is rejected. Evolutionary significance of the key
features distinguishing the bystrowianid subfamilies is analyzed.