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[dinosaur] Juvenile enantiornithine from Spain + salt glands in Jehol ornithurines (free pdfs)

Ben Creisler

New papers in open access:

Fabien Knoll, Luis M. Chiappe, Sophie Sanchez, Russell J. Garwood, Nicholas P. Edwards, Roy A. Wogelius, William I. Sellers, Phillip L. Manning, Francisco Ortega, Francisco J. Serrano, JesÃs MarugÃn-LobÃn, Elena Cuesta, Fernando Escaso & Jose Luis Sanz (2018)
A diminutive perinate European Enantiornithes reveals an asynchronous ossification pattern in early birds.
Nature Communications 9, Article number: 937Â

Fossils of juvenile Mesozoic birds provide insight into the early evolution of avian development, however such fossils are rare. The analysis of the ossification sequence in these early-branching birds has the potential to address important questions about their comparative developmental biology and to help understand their morphological evolution and ecological differentiation. Here we report on an early juvenile enantiornithine specimen from the Early Cretaceous of Europe, which sheds new light on the osteogenesis in this most species-rich clade of Mesozoic birds. Consisting of a nearly complete skeleton, it is amongst the smallest known Mesozoic avian fossils representing post-hatching stages of development. Comparisons between this new specimen and other known early juvenile enantiornithines support a clade-wide asynchronous pattern of osteogenesis in the sternum and the vertebral column, and strongly indicate that the hatchlings of these phylogenetically basal birds varied greatly in size and tempo of skeletal maturation.






Xia Wang, Jiandong Huang, Yuanchao Hu, Xiaoyu Liu, Jennifer Peteya & Julia A. Clarke (2018)
The earliest evidence for a supraorbital salt gland in dinosaurs in new Early Cretaceous ornithurines.
Scientific Reports 8, Article number: 3969Â

Supraorbital fossae occur when salt glands are well developed, a condition most pronounced in marine and desert-dwelling taxa in which salt regulation is key. Here, we report the first specimens from lacustrine environments of the Jehol Biota that preserve a distinct fossa above the orbit, where the salt gland fossa is positioned in living birds. The Early Cretaceous ornithurine bird specimens reported here are about 40 million years older than previously reported Late Cretaceous marine birds and represent the earliest described occurrence of the fossa. We find no evidence of avian salt gland fossae in phylogenetically earlier stem birds or non-avialan dinosaurs, even in those argued to be predominantly marine or desert dwelling. The apparent absence of this feature in more basal dinosaurs may indicate that it is only after miniaturization close to the origin of flight that excretory mechanisms were favored over exclusively renal mechanisms of salt regulation resulting in an increase in gland size leaving a bony trace. The ecology of ornithurine birds is more diverse than in other stem birds and may have included seasonal shifts in foraging range, or, the environments of some of the Jehol lakes may have included more pronounced periods of high salinity.


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