Science in China Series D: Earth Sciences

, Volume 51, Issue 5, pp 625–639 | Cite as

A primitive confuciusornithid bird from China and its implications for early avian flight

Article

Abstract

Confuciusornithids, lived from 120–125 million years ago, form a basal bird group and include the oldest birds with horny beaks. Here we describe Eoconfuciusornis zhengi, gen. et sp. nov. from the Early Cretaceous Dabeigou Formatio (131 Ma) in Fengning, Hebei Province, northern China. It represents a new and, more primitive than other known, member of this group and extends the lifespan of this family to 11 Ma, the longest of any known Early Cretaceous avian lineages. Furthermore, Eoconfuciusornis and its relatives present many osteological transformations, such as the size increase of the deltopectoral crest of the humerus and the keel of the sternum, apparently an adaptation toward improved flight in the evolution of the Confuciusornithidae.

Keywords

Birds Early Cretaceous confuciusornithids flight 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. 1.
    Chang M M, Chen P J, Wang Y Q, et al, eds. The Jehol Biota. Shanghai: Shanghai Scientific & Technical Publishers, 2003Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Feduccia A. The Origin and Evolution of Birds. 2nd ed. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Chiappe L M. Basal bird phylogeny: Problems and solutions. In: Chiappe L M, Witmer L M, eds. Mesozoic Birds. Berkeley: California University Press, 2002. 448–472Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Zhou Z H, Zhang F C. Mesozoic birds of China — A synoptic review. Vert PalAsiat, 2006, 44: 18–23Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Chiappe L M, Ji S A, Ji Q, et al. Anatomy and systematics of the Confuciusornithidae (Theropoda: Aves) from the Late Mesozoic of Northeastern China. Bull Am Mus Nat Hist, 1999, 242: 1–89Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Hou L H, Zhou Z H, Gu Y C, et al. Confuciusornis sanctus, a new Late Jurassic sauriurine bird from China. Chin Sci Bull, 1995, 40(18):1545–1551Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Hou L H, Zhou Z H, Martin L D, et al. A beaked bird from the Jurassic of China. Nature, 1995, 377: 616–618CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Ji Q, Chiappe L M, Li S A. A new Late Mesozoic confuciusornithid bird from China. J Vertebr Paleontol, 1999, 19(1): 1–7Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Hou L H, Zhou Z H, Zhang F C, et al. Mesozoic Birds from Western Liaoning in China. Shenyang: Liaoning Science and Technology Publishing House, 2002Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Dalsätt J, Zhou Z H, Zhang F C, et al. Food remains in Confuciusornis sanctus suggest a fish diet. Naturwissenschaften, 2006, 93(9): 444–446CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    He H Y, Wang X L, Zhou Z H, et al. Timing of the Jiufotang Formation (Jehol Group) in Liaoning, northeastern China and its implications. Geophys Res Lett, 2004, 31(12): L12605, doi: 10.1029/2004GL019790Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Swisher III C C, Wang X L, Zhou Z H, et al. Further Support for a Cretaceous age for the feathered-dinosaur beds of Liaoning, China: New 40Ar/39Ar dating of the Yixian and Tuchengzi Formations. Chin Sci Bull, 2002, 47(2): 135–138Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Zhou Z H, Barrett P M, Hilton J. An exceptionally preserved Lower Cretaceous ecosystem. Nature, 2003, 421: 807–814CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Zhou Z H. Evolutionary radiation of the Jehol Biota: chronological and ecological perspectives. Geol J, 2006, 41: 377–393CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Jin F. Middle and Late Mesozoic acipenseriforms from northern Hebei and western Liaoning, China. Palaeoworld, 1999, 11: 188–280Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Liu Y Q, Li P X, Tian S G. SHRIMP U-Pb zircon age of Late Mesozoic tuff (lava) in Luanping basin, northern Hebei, and its implications. Acta Petrol Mineral, 2003, 22(3): 237–244Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    He H Y, Wang X L, Jin F, et al. 40Ar/39Ar dating of the early Jehol Biota from Fengning, Hebei Province, northern China. Geochem Geophys Geosys, 2006, 7, doi: 10.1029/2005GC001083Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Benton M J. Vertebrate Palaeontology. 3rd ed. Oxford: Blackwell, 2004Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Zhang F C, Zhou Z H. A primitive enantiornithine bird and the origin of feathers. Science, 2000, 290: 1955–1959CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Jin F, Tian Y P, Yang Y S, et al. An early fossil sturgeon (Acipenseriformes, Peipiaosteidae) from Fengning of Hebei, China. Vert Pal Asiat, 1995, 33(1): 1–16Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Swofford D L. Paup phylogenetic analysis using parsimony (*and other methods). Version 4.0 Sunderland, MA: Sinauer. 1998Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Hou L H, Martin L D, Zhou Z H, et al. A diapsid skull in a new species of the primitive bird Confuciusornis. Nature, 1999, 399: 679–682CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Romer A S. Osteology of the Reptiles. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1956Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Zheng G M. Ornithology. Beijing: Beijing Normal University Press, 1995Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Zhang F C, Zhou Z H, Hou L H. Birds. In: Chang M M, Chen P J, Wang Y Q, et al, eds. The Jehol Biota. Shanghai: Shanghai Scientific & Technical Publishers, 2003. 129–149Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Baumel J J, Witmer L M. Osteologia. In: Baumel J J, King A S, Breazile J E, et al, eds. 2nd ed. Handbook of Avian Anatomy: Nomina Anatomica Avium. Cambridge: Nuttal Ornithological Club, 1993. 45–132Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Elzanowski A, Wellnhofer P. Cranial morphology of Archaeopteryx: Evidence from the seventh skeleton. J Vertebr Paleontol, 1996, 16(1): 81–94Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Zhang F C, Ericson P G H, Zhou Z H. Description of a new enantiornithine bird from the Early Cretaceous of Hebei, northern China. Can J Earth Sci, 2004, 41: 1097–1107CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Zhou Z H, Zhang F C. A long-tailed, seed-eating bird from the Early Cretaceous of China. Nature, 2002, 418: 405–409CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Mayr G, Pohl B, Peters D S. A well-preserved Archaeopteryx specimen with theropod features. Science, 2005, 310: 1483–1486CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Xu X. Dinosaurs. In: Chang M M, Chen P J, Wang Y Q, et al, eds. The Jehol Biota. Shanghai: Shanghai Scientific & Technical Publishers, 2003. 109–128Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Zhang F C, Zhou Z H. Origin and early evolution of feathers and feather-like integuments. In: Rong J Y, Fang Z J, Zhou Z H, et al, eds. Originations, Radiations and Biodiversity Changes-Evidences from the Chinese Fossil Record. Beijing: Science Press, 2006. 611–625, 923–925Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Zhang F C, Zhou Z H, Dyke G. Feathers and ‘feather-like’ integumentary structures in Liaoning birds and dinosaurs. Geol J, 2006, 41: 395–404CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Martin L D, Zhou Z H, Hou L H, et al. Confuciusornis sanctus compared to Archaeopteryx lithographica. Naturwissenschaften, 1998, 85: 286–289CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Science in China Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • FuCheng Zhang
    • 1
    • 2
  • ZhongHe Zhou
    • 1
  • Michael J. Benton
    • 2
  1. 1.Laboratory of Evolutionary Systematics of Vertebrates, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and PaleoanthropologyChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.Department of Earth SciencesUniversity of BristolBristolUK

Personalised recommendations