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Pterygornis, new enantiornithine bird from Jehol Biota of China

Ben Creisler

A new online paper:

Min Wang, Han Hu & Zhiheng Li (2015)
A new small enantiornithine bird from the Jehol Biota, with
implications for early evolution of avian skull morphology.
Journal of Systematic Palaeontology (advance online publication)

Enantiornithes is the most diverse Mesozoic avian clade. Approximately
half of the known global diversity of Enantiornithes is from the Early
Cretaceous Jehol Biota of China. The Jehol enantiornithines are
usually articulated and complete, but the bones are overlain by each
other and preserved in two dimensions, severely limiting the number of
cranial characters that can be recognized. Here we describe a new
enantiornithine bird, Pterygornis dapingfangensis gen. et sp. nov.,
from the Jehol Biota. The new taxon has a unique sternal morphology
with an external rostral spine and a pair of craniolateral processes.
Phylogenetic analysis resolves the new taxon in a derived position
within Enantiornithes. The specimen is disarticulated with several
exceptionally well-preserved cranial bones, including the jugal and
quadratojugal, morphologies of which remain poorly understood for
enantiornithines. Our results indicate that the quadratojugal is an
inverted L-shaped element, morphologically similar to that of more
basal birds Archaeopteryx bavarica, Jeholornis prima, Confuciusornis
sanctus and Sapeornis chaoyangensis. Our findings also illustrate that
the quadratojugal underwent large modifications with the reduction of
the caudoventral and squamosal processes sequentially during early
avian evolution, contributing to the refinement of the cranial kinesis
in early birds.