New old world vulture found from the Late Miocene of China
Neogene fossils of Old World vultures (Aegypiinae and Gypaetinae) are known from Africa, Eurasia, and North America. The evolution of Old World Vultures is closely tied to the expansion of grasslands and open woodlands and appearance of large, grazing mammals. While there are no extant Old World vultures in the Americas today, a large diversity of Gypaetinae are known from Miocene to late Pleistocene fossil deposits. Despite a comparatively large number of North American Gypaetinae fossils, complete specimens have rarely been reported from Eurasia and Africa.
|Reconstruction of Mioneophron longirostris |
[Credit: XU Yong]
In comparison with other extant and extinct Old World vultures, the new specimen has a slender and elongated rostrum, similar to the beaks of the Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus; Gypaetinae) and the Hooded Vulture (Necrosyrtes monachus; Aegypiinae). Based on the comprehensive examination of Old World vulture records and their skeletal features, the new specimen was identified as the oldest record of Gypaetinae from Eurasia or Africa.
|Photograph and line drawing of Mioneophron longirostris |
[Credit: LI Zhiheng]
To date, only a handful of bird fossils have been reported from late Miocene deposits in the Linxia Basin, including a large–bodied and flightless ostrich (Struthio linxiaensis), an Aegypiinae vulture (Gansugyps linxiaensis) and an early kestrel (Falco hezhengensis). Mioneophron represents the fourth bird species from the region and reveals a savanna-like environment in northwest China during the late Miocene.
Source: Chinese Academy of Sciences [August 04, 2016]