A record of Rhynchaeites (Aves, Threskiornithidae) from the early Eocene Fur Formation of Denmark, and the affinities of the alleged parrot Mopsitta
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We describe three-dimensionally preserved avian remains from the early Eocene Fur Formation of Denmark, which can be assigned to the taxon Rhynchaeites. This stem group representative of Threskiornithidae (ibises and spoonbills) was previously only known from the middle Eocene locality Messel in Germany. The Danish fossil, which consists of a partial postcranial skeleton, closely resembles the Messel species R. messelensis but is slightly larger and differs in a few osteological details. It allows the recognition of previously unknown osteological features of Rhynchaeites and constitutes the earliest fossil record of Threskiornithidae, predating the Messel fossils by 7 million years. We show that the alleged parrot Mopsitta tanta, which was described on the basis of an isolated humerus from the Fur Formation, most likely belongs to the same species. If specific distinctness of the Fur Formation Rhynchaeites is confirmed by future, more complete skeletons, it should thus be classified as R. tanta.
KeywordsFossil birds Messel Rhynchaeites messelensis Mopsitta tanta
We thank Gilles Cuny and Sten Lennart Jakobsen (both MGUH), Henrik Madsen (FU), as well as Elvira Brahm and Stephan Schaal (SMF) for access to the fossil specimen. The photos were taken by Sven Tränkner. S.B. was supported by a grant from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (3.1-USA/1127798) and EDIT fellowships for Women in Science. Finally, we thank Cécile Mourer-Chauviré and Herculano Alvarenga for reviewing the manuscript.
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