Friday, July 12, 2019

[PaleoOrnithology • 2019] Elektorornis chenguangi • A New Enantiornithine Bird with Unusual Pedal Proportions Found in Amber

 Elektorornis chenguangi 
Xing, O’Connor, Chiappe, McKellar, Carroll, Hu, Bai & Lei, 2019

Illustration: Zhongda Zhang

• New fossil is first avian species recognized from amber
Elektorornis is distinct from all other birds based on the proportions of the foot
• Scutellae scale filaments on foot suggest probing function for elongated third toe

Recent discoveries of vertebrate remains trapped in middle Cretaceous amber from northern Myanmar have provided insights into the morphology of soft-tissue structures in extinct animals, in particular, into the evolution and paleobiology of early birds. So far, five bird specimens have been described from Burmese amber: two isolated wings, an isolated foot with wing fragment, and two partial skeletons. Most of these specimens contain the remains of juvenile enantiornithine birds. Here, we describe a new specimen of enantiornithine bird in amber, collected at the Angbamo locality in the Hukawng Valley. The new specimen includes a partial right hindlimb and remiges from an adult or subadult bird. Its foot, of which the third digit is much longer than the second and fourth digits, is distinct from those of all other currently recognized Mesozoic and extant birds. Based on the autapomorphic foot morphology, we erect a new taxon, Elektorornis chenguangi gen. et sp. nov. We suggest that the elongated third digit was employed in a unique foraging strategy, highlighting the bizarre morphospace in which early birds operated.

Keywords: Cretaceous, Cenomanian, Burma, Hukawng, stem Aves, Enantiornithes, ecology, feathers

 Tarsal with Integumentary Structures Preserved in Elektorornis chenguangi  HPG-15-2

Systematic Paleontology: 
Aves Linnaeus 1758 
Ornithothoraces Chiappe 1995 
Enantiornithes Walker 1981 

Elektorornis gen. nov. 

 Elektorornis chenguangi gen. et sp. nov.

Etymology: Elektorornis, ‘‘Elektor,’’ the word for amber; ‘‘-ornis,’’ Greek, meaning bird. The species name ‘‘chenguangi’’ is in honor of Chen Guang, a curator at the Hupoge Amber Museum.

 Lida Xing, Jingmai K. O’Connor, Luis M. Chiappe, Ryan C. McKellar, Nathan Carroll, Han Hu, Ming Bai and Fuming Lei. 2019. A New Enantiornithine Bird with Unusual Pedal Proportions Found in Amber. Current Biology. In Press.  DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.05.077 

Bird with unusually long toes found fossilized in amber via @physorg_com

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