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Chongmingia, new basal bird from Lower Cretaceous of China (free pdf)



Ben Creisler
bcreisler@gmail.com


A new paper:


Min Wang, Xiaoli Wang, Yan Wang & Zhonghe Zhou (2016)
A new basal bird from China with implications for morphological
diversity in early birds.
Scientific Reports 6, Article number: 19700 (2016)
doi:10.1038/srep19700
http://www.nature.com/articles/srep19700

The Chinese Lower Cretaceous Jehol Group is the second oldest fossil
bird-bearing deposit, only surpassed by Archaeopteryx from the German
Upper Jurassic Solnhofen Limestones. Here we report a new bird,
Chongmingia zhengi gen. et sp. nov., from the Jehol Biota.
Phylogenetic analyses indicate that Chongmingia zhengi is basal to the
dominant Mesozoic avian clades Enantiornithes and Ornithuromorpha, and
represents a new basal avialan lineage. This new discovery adds to our
knowledge regarding the phylogenetic differentiation and morphological
diversity in early avian evolution. The furcula of Chongmingia is
rigid (reducing its efficiency), consequently requiring more power for
flight. However, the elongated forelimb and the large deltopectoral
crest on the humerus might indicate that the power was available. The
unique combination of features present in this species demonstrates
that numerous evolutionary experimentations took place in the early
evolution of powered flight. The occurrence of gastroliths further
confirms that herbivory was common among basal birds. The Jehol birds
faced competition with pterosaurs, and occupied sympatric habitats
with non-avian theropods, some of which consumed birds. Thus, avialan
herbivory may have reduced ecological competition from carnivorous
close relatives and other volant vertebrates early in their
evolutionary history.