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Fumicollis, new hesperornithiform from Late Cretaceous of Kansas (free pdf)

Ben Creisler

New in PLoS ONE:

Alyssa Bell & Luis M. Chiappe (2015)
Identification of a New Hesperornithiform from the Cretaceous Niobrara
Chalk and Implications for Ecologic Diversity among Early Diving
PLoS ONE 10(11): e0141690
doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0141690

he Smoky Hill Member of the Niobrara Chalk in Kansas (USA) has yielded
the remains of numerous members of the Hesperornithiformes, toothed
diving birds from the late Early to Late Cretaceous. This study
presents a new taxon of hesperornithiform from the Smoky Hill Member,
Fumicollis hoffmani, the holotype of which is among the more complete
hesperornithiform skeletons. Fumicollis has a unique combination of
primitive (e.g. proximal and distal ends of femur not expanded,
elongate pre-acetabular ilium, small and pyramidal patella) and
derived (e.g. dorsal ridge on metatarsal IV, plantarly-projected curve
in the distal shaft of phalanx III:1) hesperornithiform characters,
suggesting it was more specialized than small hesperornithiforms like
Baptornis advenus but not as highly derived as the larger Hesperornis
regalis. The identification of Fumicollis highlights once again the
significant diversity of hesperornithiforms that existed in the Late
Cretaceous Western Interior Seaway. This diversity points to the
existence of a complex ecosystem, perhaps with a high degree of niche
partitioning, as indicated by the varying degrees of diving
specializations among these birds.