Xiaoting Zheng, Jingmai K. O’Connor, Xiaoli Wang, Yanhong Pan, Yan Wang, Min Wang & Zhonghe Zhou (2017)
Exceptional preservation of soft tissue in a new specimen of Eoconfuciusornis and its biological implications.
National Science Review nwx004
We report on an exceptional specimen of Eoconfuciusornis preserving rare soft-tissue traces of the ovary and wing. Ovarian follicles preserve a greater hierarchy than observed in Jeholornis and enantiornithines, suggesting confuciusornithiforms evolved higher rates of yolk deposition in parallel with the neornithine lineage. The preserved soft tissues of the wing indicate the presence of a propatagium and postpatagium, whereas an alular patagium is absent. Preserved remnants of the internal support network of the propatagium bear remarkable similarity to that of living birds. Soft tissue suggests the confuciusornithiform propatagium could maintain a cambered profile and generate lift. The feathers of the wing preserve remnants of their original patterning; however, this is not strongly reflected by observable differences under scanning electron microscopy (SEM). The tail plumage lacks elongate rectrices, suggesting that the earliest known confuciusornithiforms were sexually dimorphic in their plumage.