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[dinosaur] Evolutionary radiation of plesiadapiforms + Messel early Eocene birds

Ben Creisler

Cenozoic topics that may be of  interest:

Mary T. Silcox, Jonathan I. Bloch, Doug M. Boyer, Stephen G. B. Chester & Sergi López-Torres (2017)
The evolutionary radiation of plesiadapiforms.
Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News, and Reviews 26(2): 74–94
DOI: 10.1002/evan.21526 

Very shortly after the disappearance of the non-avian dinosaurs, the first mammals that had features similar to those of primates started appearing. These first primitive forms went on to spawn a rich diversity of plesiadapiforms, often referred to as archaic primates. Like many living primates, plesiadapiforms were small arboreal animals that generally ate fruit, insects, and, occasionally, leaves. However, this group lacked several diagnostic features of euprimates. They also had extraordinarily diverse specializations, represented in eleven families and more than 140 species, which, in some cases, were like nothing seen since in the primate order. Plesiadapiforms are known from all three Northern continents, with representatives that persisted until at least 37 million years ago. In this article we provide a summary of the incredible diversity of plesiadapiform morphology and adaptations, reviewing our knowledge of all eleven families. We also discuss the challenges that remain in our understanding of their ecology and evolution.


out in final form (and not yet mentioned):

Gerald Mayr (2017)
The early Eocene birds of the Messel fossil site: a 48 million-year-old bird community adds a temporal perspective to the evolution of tropical avifaunas.
Biological Reviews 92(2): 1174–1188
DOI: 10.1111/brv.12274  

Birds play an important role in studies addressing the diversity and species richness of tropical ecosystems, but because of the poor avian fossil record in all extant tropical regions, a temporal perspective is mainly provided by divergence dates derived from calibrated molecular analyses. Tropical ecosystems were, however, widespread in the Northern Hemisphere during the early Cenozoic, and the early Eocene German fossil site Messel in particular has yielded a rich avian fossil record. The Messel avifauna is characterized by a considerable number of flightless birds, as well as a high diversity of aerial insectivores and the absence of large arboreal birds. With about 70 currently known species in 42 named genus-level and at least 39 family-level taxa, it approaches extant tropical biotas in terms of species richness and taxonomic diversity. With regard to its taxonomic composition and presumed ecological characteristics, the Messel avifauna is more similar to the Neotropics, Madagascar, and New Guinea than to tropical forests in continental Africa and Asia. Because the former regions were geographically isolated during most of the Cenozoic, their characteristics may be due to the absence of biotic factors, especially those related to the diversification of placental mammals, which impacted tropical avifaunas in Africa and Asia. The crown groups of most avian taxa that already existed in early Eocene forests are species-poor. This does not support the hypothesis that the antiquity of tropical ecosystems is key to the diversity of tropical avifaunas, and suggests that high diversification rates may be of greater significance.