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


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.

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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.

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Correspondence to Gerald Mayr.

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Communicated by F. Bairlein

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Mayr, G. 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. J Ornithol 147, 31–37 (2006).

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  • Paraortygoides messelensis
  • Galliformes
  • Phylogeny
  • Evolution
  • Fossil birds