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J Anat. 2008 May;212(5):565-77. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7580.2008.00880.x. Epub 2008 Apr 7.

Insight into diversity, body size and morphological evolution from the largest Early Cretaceous enantiornithine bird.

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Laboratory of Evolutionary Systematics of Vertebrates, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, PO Box 643, Beijing 100044, China. <>


Most of Mesozoic bird diversity comprises species that are part of one of two major lineages, namely Ornithurae, including living birds, and Enantiornithes, a major radiation traditionally referred to as 'opposite birds'. Here we report the largest Early Cretaceous enantiornithine bird from north-east China, which provides evidence that basal members of Enantiornithes share more morphologies with ornithurine birds than previously recognized. Morphological evolution in these two groups has been thought to be largely parallel, with derived members of Enantiornithes convergent on the 'advanced' flight capabilities of ornithurine birds. The presence of an array of morphologies previously thought to be derived within ornithurine and enantiornithine birds in a basal enantiornithine species provides evidence of the complex character evolution in these two major lineages. The cranial morphology of the new specimen is among the best preserved for Mesozoic avians. The new species extends the size range known for Early Cretaceous Enantiornithes significantly and provides evidence of forelimb to hind limb proportions distinct from all other known members of the clade. As such, it sheds new light on avian body size evolution and diversity, and allows a re-evaluation of a previously proposed hypothesis of competitive exclusion among Early Cretaceous avian clades.

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