New basal bird from China reveals the morphological diversity in early birds
|Reconstruction of Chongmingia zhengi |
[Credit: WANG Min]
The new specimen is a partial skeleton with associated soft tissues and gastroliths, missing the skull and most of the caudal vertebrae. Comparative studies indicate that it is a large non-ornithothoracine bird distinguishable from the known basal avialans by a combination of features.
|Holotype, hands, pectoral girdle and Long bone histology |
of Chongmingia zhengi [Credit: WANG Min]
Histological studies indicate Chongmingia had a moderately elevated growth rate relative to the long-tailed Archaeopteryx and Jeholornis. Furthermore, other morphological features, along with the evolutionary pattern drawn from other basal birds, reveal mosaic evolution and numerous evolutionary experiments relating to powered flight early in the evolution of birds.
|Simplified Mesozoic avian cladogram showing the possible phylogenetic|
positions of Chongmingia zhengi [Credit: SHI Aijuan]
“Although our analysis suggests that the new specimen may represent the most phylogenetically basal Cretaceous bird known to date, this phylogenetic hypothesis should be treated with caution given the incomplete preservation of the skeleton and low phylogenetic support values”, said lead author Dr. WANG Min, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP), Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Source: Chinese Academy of Sciences [March 03, 2016]