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The first fossil barbet (Aves, Ramphastidae) from Siberia


Barbets are arboreal birds, inhabiting mainly tropical forests west of the Wallace’s Line. Fossil remains of barbets are extremely scarce. Until recently, only two species of barbets were described from the early and middle Miocene of Europe and several other undescribed fragments were mentioned in the literature. Here I report the first finds of barbets from Eastern Siberia. ?Capitonides sp. is here described from the late early Miocene of Baikal Lake based on a distal part of the humerus, an omal part of the coracoid, and a distal part of the ulna. The morphology of the fossil specimen does not allow attributing it to any of the modern genera, and thus ?Capitonides sp. is apparently a stem representative of the group. This find documents a previously unrecognized broad geographical distribution of barbets during the warmest phase (climatic optimum) of the Miocene. The observed similarity between the early–middle Miocene arboreal avifaunas of Western Europe and Eastern Siberia suggests the presence of a wide belt of relatively humid forests connecting Europe and Asia.


Erster fossiler Bartvogel (Aves, Ramphastidae) aus Sibirien

Bartvögel sind Waldvögel, die in erster Linie in den tropischen Wäldern westlich der Wallace-Linie leben. Fossile Funde von Bartvögeln sind extrem selten. Bis vor kurzem gab es nur Beschreibungen zweier Bartvogel-Arten aus dem frühen und mittleren Miozän Europas sowie einige weitere unbeschriebene, nur in der Literatur erwähnte Fossilien-Fragmente. In dieser Arbeit berichte ich von den ersten fossilen Bartvogel-Funden in Ost-Sibirien und beschreibe eine ?Capitonides sp. aus dem mittleren Miozän, gefunden am Baikal-See. Die Beschreibung basiert auf einem distalen Teil des Humerus, einem omalen Teil des Rabenschnabelbeins und einem distalen Stück der Ulna. Die Morphologie des Fossils erlaubt keine Zuordnung zu einer der modernen Gattungen; deshalb scheint ?Capitonides sp. ein Stammlinienvertreter der Gruppe zu sein. Diese Funde dokumentieren eine bislang unerwartet große geographische Verbreitung der Bartvögel während der wärmsten Phase (Klima-Optimum) des Miozäns. Die für das mittlere Miozän festgestellte Ähnlichkeit der Wald-Avifauna Westeuropas mit der von Ost-Sibirien lässt einen breiten Regenwaldgürtel vermuten, der einmal Europa und Asien verband.

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I am deeply indebted to all participants of field works at Tagay locality. Photographs of C. europeus and C. protractus were made by Nikita Zelenkov with permission from Oliver Rauhut (Bayerische Staatssammlung für Paläontologie und Geologie). Nikita Zelenkov participated in the discussion of the materials described here and assisted in the preparation of the article. I am thankful to Chris Milensky and Helen James for providing access to the osteological collection of birds in the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History and for their assistance during my stay there. I am deeply grateful to Gerald Mayr for a detailed review of the manuscript, his comments helped to improve this work.


This study was funded by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research the Project № 18-34-00680.

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Volkova, N.V. The first fossil barbet (Aves, Ramphastidae) from Siberia. J Ornithol 161, 325–332 (2020).

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  • Ramphastidae
  • Barbets
  • ?Capitonides sp.
  • Early Miocene
  • Siberia
  • Asia