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

  • FuCheng Zhang
  • ZhongHe Zhou
  • Michael J. Benton


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.


Birds Early Cretaceous confuciusornithids flight 


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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

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