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[dinosaur] Vegaviidae clade taxonomic affinities disputed

Ben Creisler

A new paper:

Gerald Mayr, Vanesa L. De Pietri, R. Paul Scofield & Trevor H. Worthy (2018)
On the taxonomic composition and phylogenetic affinities of the recently proposed clade Vegaviidae AgnolÃn et al., 2017 â neornithine birds from the Upper Cretaceous of the Southern Hemisphere.
Cretaceous Research (advance online publication)
doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cretres.2018.02.013


The recently proposed taxon Vegaviidae includes two of the best-represented neornithine taxa from the Upper Cretaceous of the Southern Hemisphere, Vegavis and Polarornis
Australornis and an unnamed phaethontiform from the lower Paleocene of New Zealand, as well as other fossils from the Upper Cretaceous and lower Cenozoic of the Southern Hemisphere were incorrectly referred to Vegaviidae
The repeated use of Vegavis for the calibration of molecular data notwithstanding, neither anseriform nor galloanserine affinities of Vegaviidae have been firmly established.


Polarornis and Vegavis from the Upper Cretaceous of Antarctica are among the few Mesozoic birds from the Southern Hemisphere. In the original descriptions, they were assigned to two widely disparate avian clades, that is, Gaviiformes and crown group Anseriformes, respectively. In a recent publication, however, specimens referred to both taxa were classified into a new higher-level taxon, Vegaviidae, to which various other late Mesozoic and early Cenozoic avian taxa were also assigned. Here, we detail that classification into Vegaviidae is poorly supported for most of these latter fossils, which is particularly true for Australornis lovei and an unnamed phaethontiform fossil from the Waipara Greensand in New Zealand. Plesiomorphic traits of the pterygoid and the mandible clearly show that Vegavis is not a representative of crown group Anseriformes, and we furthermore point out that even anseriform or galloanserine affinities of Vegaviidae have not been firmly established.

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