, Volume 89, Issue 1, pp 34–38 | Cite as

Largest bird from the Early Cretaceous and its implications for the earliest avian ecological diversification

  • Zhonghe Zhou
  • Fucheng Zhang
Short Communication


With only one known exception, early Cretaceous birds were smaller than their closest theropod dinosaur relatives. Here we report on a new bird from the Early Cretaceous feathered-dinosaur-bearing continental deposits of Liaoning, northeast China, which is not only larger than Archaeopteryx but is nearly twice as large as the basal dromaeosaur Microraptor. The new taxon, Sapeornis chaoyangensis gen. et sp. nov., has a more basal phylogenetic position than all other birds except for Archaeopteryx. Its exceptionally long forelimbs, well-developed deltoid crest of the humerus, proximally fused metacarpals, relatively short hindlimbs and short pygostyle indicate powerful soaring capability and further suggest that by the Early Cretaceous ecological diversification of early birds was greater than previously assumed. Electronic supplementary material to this paper can be obtained by using the Springer LINK server located at


Early Cretaceous Pectoral Girdle Manual Digit Springer Link Server Ornithurine Bird 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Supplementary material

114_2001_276_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (16 kb)
Appendix S1 Data matrix for the phylogenetic analysis of Sapeornis and other birds (PDF 16 KB)
114_2001_276_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (28 kb)
Appendix S2 List of characters for the phylogenetic analysis of Sapeornis and other birds (PDF 29 KB)

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zhonghe Zhou
    • 1
  • Fucheng Zhang
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of SciencesChina

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