Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 147, Issue 1, pp 31–37 | Cite as

New specimens of the early Eocene stem group galliform Paraortygoides (Gallinuloididae), with comments on the evolution of a crop in the stem lineage of Galliformes

  • Gerald MayrEmail author
Original Article


Two new specimens of the fossil stem group galliform Paraortygoides messelensis Mayr 2000 (Gallinuloididae) are described from the Middle Eocene of Messel in Germany, including a complete skeleton in which the hitherto unknown skull of this species is preserved. The shorter and more protruding crista deltopectoralis of the humerus, also for the first time visible in one of the new specimens, shows gallinuloidids to be the sister taxon of all other, extinct and extant, galliform birds. Gallinuloidids distinctly differ from modern Galliformes in several other plesiomorphic osteological features, mainly of the pectoral girdle, of which the absence of a spina interna on the sternum is here reported for the first time. It is assumed that major evolutionary transformations in the stem lineage of Galliformes are related to the evolution of a large crop, which appears to have been absent in gallinuloidids. The vegetarian food component of gallinuloidids thus probably mainly consisted of soft plant matter rather than coarse material such as seeds.


Paraortygoides messelensis Galliformes Phylogeny Evolution Fossil birds 



I thank S. Schaal and E. Brahm for the loan of the Messel specimens and S. Tränkner for taking the photographs. I further thank C. Mourer-Chauviré for comments on the manuscript.


  1. Baumel JJ, Witmer LM (1993) Osteologia. In: Baumel JJ, King AS, Breazile JE, Evans HE, Van den Berge JC (eds) Handbook of avian anatomy: nomina anatomica avium. Publ Nuttall Ornithol Club 23:45–132Google Scholar
  2. Clarke JA (2004) The morphology, phylogenetic taxonomy and systematics of Ichthyornis and Apatornis (Avialae: Ornithurae). Bull Am Mus Nat Hist 286:1–179CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cracraft J, Clarke JA (2001) The basal clades of modern birds. In: Gauthier J, Gall LF (eds) New perspectives on the origin and early evolution of birds. Peabody Museum of Natural History, New Haven, pp 143–156Google Scholar
  4. Cracraft J, Barker FK, Braun M, Harshman J, Dyke GJ, Feinstein J, Stanley S, Cibois A, Schikler P, Beresford P, García-Moreno J, Sorenson MD, Yuri T, Mindell DP (2004) Phylogenetic relationships among modern birds (Neornithes): toward an avian tree of life. In: Cracraft J, Donoghue M (eds) Assembling the tree of life. Oxford University Press, New York, pp 468–489Google Scholar
  5. del Hoyo J, Elliott A, Sargatal J (1994) Handbook of the birds of the world, vol 2. New World vultures to guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, BarcelonaGoogle Scholar
  6. Dyke GJ (2003) The phylogenetic position of Gallinuloides Eastman (Aves: Galliformes) from the Tertiary of North America. Zootaxa 199:1–10Google Scholar
  7. Dyke GJ, Gulas BE (2002) The fossil galliform bird Paraortygoides from the Lower Eocene of the United Kingdom. Am Mus Novit 3360:1–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dzerzhinsky FY (1992) Evidence for common ancestry of the Galliformes and Anseriformes. Cour Forsch-Inst Senckenberg 181:325–336Google Scholar
  9. Ericson PGP (1997) Systematic relationships of the Palaeogene family Presbyornithidae (Aves: Anseriformes). Zool J Linn Soc 121:429–483CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hope S (2002) The Mesozoic radiation of Neornithes. In: Chiappe LM, Witmer LM (eds) Mesozoic birds: above the heads of dinosaurs. University of California Press, Berkeley, pp 339–388Google Scholar
  11. Jacobs BF, Kingston JD, Jacobs LL (1999) The origin of grass-dominated ecosystems. Ann Missouri Bot Gard 86:590–643CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Lucas FA (1900) Characters and relations of Gallinuloides wyomingensis Eastman, a fossil Gallinaceous bird from the Green River Shales of Wyoming. Bull Mus Comp Zool 36:79–84Google Scholar
  13. Mayr G (2000) A new basal galliform bird from the Middle Eocene of Messel (Hessen, Germany). Senck leth 80:45–57Google Scholar
  14. Mayr G (2005) The Paleogene fossil record of birds in Europe. Biol Rev 80 DOI 10.1017/S1464793105006779Google Scholar
  15. Mayr G, Clarke J (2003) The deep divergences of neornithine birds: a phylogenetic analysis of morphological characters. Cladistics 19:527–553CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Mayr G, Weidig I (2004) The early Eocene bird Gallinuloides wyomingensis—a stem group representative of Galliformes. Acta Palaeont Pol 49:211–217Google Scholar
  17. Mertz DF, Harms F-J, Gabriel G, Felder M (2004) Arbeitstreffen in der Forschungsstation Grube Messel mit neuen Ergebnissen aus der Messel-Forschung. Nat Mus 134:289–290Google Scholar
  18. Mourer-Chauviré C (1992) The Galliformes (aves) from the phosphorites du quercy (France): Systematics and biostratigraphy. In: Campbell KE (ed) Papers in avian paleontology honoring Pierce Brodkorb. Nat Hist Mus Los Angeles Cty Sci Ser 36:67–95Google Scholar
  19. Mourer-Chauviré C (2000) A new species of Ameripodius (Aves: Galliformes: Quercymegapodiidae) from the lower Miocene of France. Palaeontology 43:481–193CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Olson SL (1999) The anseriform relationships of Anatalavis Olson and Parris (Anseranatidae), with a new species from the Lower Eocene London Clay. In: Olson SL (ed) Avian paleontology at the close of the 20th century: proceedings of the 4th international meeting of the Society of Avian Paleontology and Evolution, Washington, DC, 4–7 June 1996. Smithson Contr Paleobiol 89:231–243Google Scholar
  21. Saether OA (1979) Underlying synapomorphies and anagenetic analysis. Zool Scr 8:305–312CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Schifferli L (1985) Grit. In: Campbell B, Lack E (eds) A dictionary of birds: 256. Poyser, CaltonGoogle Scholar
  23. Sibley CG, Ahlquist JE (1990) Phylogeny and classification of birds: a study in molecular evolution. Yale University Press, New HavenGoogle Scholar
  24. Stegmann B (1964) Die funktionelle Bedeutung des Schlüsselbeines bei den Vögeln. J Ornithol 105:450–463CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Stephan B (1992) Vorkommen und Ausbildung der Fingerkrallen bei rezenten Vögeln. J Ornithol 133:251–277CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Storer RW (1982) Fused thoracic vertebrae in birds: their occurrence and possible significance. J Yamashina Inst Ornithol 14:86–95Google Scholar
  27. Stresemann E (1927–34) Aves. In: Kükenthal W, Krumbach T (eds) Handbuch der Zoologie. de Gruyter, Berlin, pp 1–899Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Forschungsinstitut SenckenbergSektion für OrnithologieFrankfurt am MainGermany

Personalised recommendations