Biogeography

Europe and North America were connected by northern latitude land corridors via Greenland in the late Paleocene and early Eocene, whose existence was terminated by the opening of the North Atlantic (Smith et al. 1994). Until the early Oligocene, Europe was further separated from Asia by the Turgai Strait, an epicontinental sea which divided the Eurasian land mass. Whereas overland dispersal between Europe and Asia was thus aggravated in the early Paleogene, intermittent land connections via...

Caprimulgiformes and Apodiformes Nightjars and Allies Swifts and Hummingbirds

As noted in Chap. 3, molecular data congruently support a clade including the paraphyletic Caprimulgiformes and the Apodiformes, which share a greatly elongated leg (crus longum) of the ulnar carpal bone. Morphological characters further support a clade including the Caprimulgidae, Nyctibiidae, Aegothelidae, and Apodiformes, for which the name Cypselomorphae has been introduced (Fig. 12.1 Mayr 2002b). Among others (Mayr 2002b), the palatine bones of cypselomorph birds bear well-developed...

Chapter Introduction

With around 9,000 extant species, birds are the most species-rich group of land vertebrates. As seed dispersers, flower pollinators, predators, prey, and through numerous other interactions they play an important ecological role in today's world. Although a picture of past ecosystems is thus likely to be quite incomplete without consideration of their avifaunas, Cenozoic fossil birds are still significantly underrepresented in even the most recent treatises of vertebrate paleontology. This is...

FNecrobyinae fPalaeoglaucidae and fSelenornithinae

These three taxa were named by Mourer-Chauvire (1987) for the inclusion of various modern-type Strigiformes from the Quercy fissure fillings, and were considered stem group representatives of the Tytonidae (see Fig. 8 in Mourer-Chauvire 1987). According to Mourer-Chauvire (1987, 2006), the Necrobyinae include the taxa Necrobyas, Nocturnavis, Palaeobyas, and Palaeotyto. All major limb bones of Necrobyas were described by Mourer-Chauvire (1987), and the following species were recognized in the...

Alcediniformes Bee Eaters Kingfishers Todies and Motmots

Crown group Alcediniformes include the Alcedinidae (kingfishers) and Meropidae (bee-eaters), which predominantly (Alcedinidae) or exclusively (Meropidae) live in the Old World, and the Todidae (todies) and Momotidae (motmots), whose extant species are restricted to the New World. A clade including these four taxa can be supported by a derived morphology of the columella (Feduccia 1977). Because alcedini-form birds dig earth tunnels for their nesting sites, they further have a syndactyl foot, in...

Coliiformes Mousebirds

Middle Toe Longest

The Coliiformes include six predominantly frugivorous extant species, which occur in Africa south of the Sahara. They are sparrow-sized, long-tailed birds with a short, finch-like beak and a facultatively pamprodactyl and zygodactyl foot, i.e., the first and fourth toes can be turned forward and backward. Among others (Mayr and Peters 1998), coliiform birds are further characterized by a very large dorsal cotyla of the ulna, the fact that both cnemial crests and the patellar crest of the...

Scopidae Hamerkop Balaenicipitidae Shoebill and Pelecanidae Pelicans

The Scopidae include a single African species and have no Paleogene fossil record. The Balaenicipitidae likewise contain a sole extant representative, the Shoebill Balaeniceps rex , which lives in remote swamps of east-central Africa. The only Paleogene fossil species that was assigned to the taxon is Goliathia andrewsi Lambrecht, 1930 from the Jebel Qatrani Formation of Egypt Rasmussen et al. 1987 . This species is known from an ulna, which lacks exact stratigraphic data, and a referred...

Sphenisciformes Penguins

Extant Sphenisciformes occur on all continents of the Southern Hemisphere and include 17 species, whose standing height ranges from about 40 cm Little Blue Penguin, Eudyptula minor to slightly more than 1 m Emperor Penguin, Aptenodytes forsteri . Owing to the fact that penguin bones are fairly robust, and because these birds live in an aquatic environment which offers favorable conditions for fossiliza-tion, their fossil record is very extensive and dates back into the Paleocene....

Chapter Arboreal Birds

As are some of the preceding headings, that of the present chapter is a makeshift one, as not all taxa discussed in the following are arboreal, and others, which are, belong to groups not considered here. The taxa included here are probably further paraphyletic with respect to the Cariamae, Falconiformes, and Strigiformes Chap. 3 Ericson et al. 2006 Hackett et al. 2008 . There exist osteological similarities between stem group representatives of the Coliiformes, Psittaciformes, and...

Trogoniformes Trogons

The Trogoniformes are insectivorous or frugivorous arboreal birds which occur in the tropical and subtropical regions of continental Africa, Asia, and the New World. Trogons are the only avian group in which the second toe is permanently directed backward. This so-called heterodactyl foot is accompanied by a plantarly retroverted tarsometatarsal trochlea for the second toe. Skeletal remains of several individuals of early Eocene trogons were collected by Michael Daniels in the London Clay of...

FMesselasturidae

The Messelasturidae include two named species, Tynskya eocaena Mayr, 2000 from the Green River Formation and Messelastur gratulator Peters, 1994 from Messel. The former is represented by a single skeleton, whereas of M. gratulator an incomplete skeleton and two skulls were identified Peters 1994 Mayr 2000f, 2005i . M. gratulator was tentatively assigned to the Accipitridae in the original description Peters 1994 . The phylogenetic affinities of T. eocaena were considered uncertain Mayr 2000f ,...

FArchaeotrogonidae

These short-legged aerial insectivores are the most abundant small birds in the Oligocene deposits of the Quercy fissure fillings. Their taxonomy was revised by Mourer-Chauvire 1980 , who recognized four species Archaeotrogon venustus Milne-Edwards, 1892 late Eocene to late Oligocene , A. zitteli Gaillard, 1908 early to late Oligocene , A. cayluxensis Gaillard, 1908 late Oligocene , and A. hoffstetteri Mourer-Chauvire, 1980 from the old collections of unknown age . A. venustus is the best known...

FPhorusrhacidae

The Phorusrhacidae terror birds are one of the most characteristic and best known avian groups from the Cenozoic of South America. Their taxonomy was revised by Alvarenga and H fling 2003 , who recognized five subtaxa, of which only the Psilopterinae, Patagornithinae, and Brontornithinae have a Paleogene fossil record. The taxonomic allocation of the fossils assigned to the latter is, however, challenged by the fact that Agnolin 2007b assumed that the early Neogene Brontornis, the type genus of...

Charadriiformes Shorebirds and Allies

Extant Charadriiformes are a diversified and speciose group of birds and occupy many different habitats, from the open sea and coastal shores to semideserts. Molecular data provide a robust framework for the interrelationships of the various groups, which fall into three clades, the Lari, Charadrii, and Scolopaci Paton and Baker 2006 Baker et al. 2007 Fain and Houde 2007 . Crown group Charadriiformes share an unusually slow motility of the enzyme malate dehydrogenase Kitto and Wilson 1966 , but...

FEogruidae

Large, long-legged birds are comparatively abundant in the late Eocene and early Oligocene of Central Asia, and were assigned to the taxa Eogruidae and Ergilornithidae by earlier authors e.g., Kurochkin 1976 Olson 1985 . However, Clarke et al. 2005a noted that the Eogruidae are likely to be paraphyletic with respect to the Ergilornithidae, and I follow their proposition to subsume the latter in the taxon Eogruidae, which has taxonomic priority. The first eogruid species was described as Eogrus...

FPsittacopes and Allies

Unambiguous remains of early and middle Eocene stem group representatives of the Psittaciformes were reported from the London Clay and Messel Mayr and Daniels 1998 . The Messel species was named Psittacopes lepidus Mayr and Daniels, 1998, and is known from two skeletons. The London Clay remains belong to at least three different species, which are represented by three-dimensionally preserved skulls and bones of most major limb elements Fig. 16.6 Mayr and Daniels 1998 . All are very similar to...

Falconidae Falcons

Horusornithidae

The phylogenetic interrelationships of the modern species indicate that the Falconidae, which today have a worldwide distribution, originated in South America Griffiths 1999 . For this reason and because some molecular analyses provide support for a clade including the Cariamidae, Falconidae, Psittaciformes, and Passeriformes Ericson et al. 2006 Hackett et al. 2008 , it is tempting to speculate about possible affinities to the raptorial Phorusrhacidae, which are stem group representatives of...

FProphaethontidae and Phaethontidae Tropicbirds

The Prophaethontidae occur in late Paleocene to middle Eocene marine localities of Europe, Asia, North Africa, and eastern North America. The taxon was originally established for Prophaethon shrubsolei Andrews, 1899 from the early Eocene London Clay of the Isle of Sheppey. The holotype of this species is a partial skeleton including a nearly complete skull Fig. 7.10 , a pelvis, as well as pectoral girdle and hindlimb elements Andrews 1899 Harrison and Walker 1976c . Olson 1981 noted that a...

Columbiformes Doves and Sandgrouse

There exists congruent morphological and molecular evidence that the Columbidae and Pteroclidae are sister taxa Mayr and Clarke 2003 Cracraft et al. 2004 Ericson et al. 2006 Livezey and Zusi 2007 . The closest extant relatives of the clade including these two taxa are, however, unknown. The Pteroclidae only occur in Africa and Eurasia, whereas the Columbidae are globally distributed. Stem group representatives of the Pteroclidae were found in the Quercy fissure fillings Mourer-Chauvire 1992b,...

FMesselornithidae and fWalbeckornis

Sternum Rallidae

With over 500 specimens Morlo 2004 , the Messelornithidae Messel rails are the most abundant avian group in Messel, and these birds are also fairly common in the Green River Formation Hesse 1990 Weidig 2003 . The four species currently included in the taxon are Messelornis cristata Hesse, 1988 from Messel, M. nearctica Hesse, 1992 from the Green River Formation, M. russelli Mourer-Chauvire, 1995 from the Paleocene of France, and Itardiornis hessae Mourer-Chauvire, 1995 from the late Eocene and...

FFluvioviridavidae

Mayr Fossil Bird

The Fluvioviridavidae include two species, Fluvioviridavis platyrhamphus Mayr and Daniels, 2001 from the Green River Formation Fig. 12.3 and Eurofluvioviridavis robustipes Mayr, 2005 from Messel. The holotype of F platyrhamphus was figured Fig. 12.1 Hypothesis on the phylogenetic relationships between Paleogene and extant representatives of the Caprimulgiformes and Apodiformes. Selected apomorphies of the nodes 1 long leg crus longum of ulnar carpal bone greatly elongated 2 palatine with...

Galliformes Landfowl

Crown group Galliformes include the Australasian Megapodiidae megapodes , which are the sister taxon of a clade including the New World Cracidae guans, chachalacas, and curassows and the globally distributed Phasianidae grouse, quails, pheasants, and allies Cracraft et al. 2004 Ericson et al. 2006 . Although stem group Galliformes may have already existed in the late Cretaceous see Chap. 4 , identification of the fragmentary remains needs to be corroborated with additional specimens. The...

FGallinuloididae

The earliest substantial and unambiguously identified fossils of galliform birds belong to the early Eocene Gallinuloididae. Originally, this taxon was established for Gallinuloides wyomingensis Eastman, 1900, which is known from three skeletons from the Green River Formation Fig. 6.2 , and which is the first avian species described from this locality Eastman 1900 Lucas 1900 see Figs. III.16, III.22 in Grande 1980 Mayr and Weidig 2004 . Representatives of the Gallinuloididae were also reported...

Higher Level Phylogeny of Extant Birds

Hackett Phylogeny

Despite their paramount importance for stimulation of new research in avian systematics, the often-cited DNA-DNA hybridization studies of Sibley and Ahlquist 1990 have proven to be an unreliable basis for phylogenetic inferences Harshman 2007 . The higher-level phylogeny of neornithine birds remains incompletely understood, but some consensus has been reached in recent phylogenetic analyses, and provides a framework for an interpretation of fossil taxa Cracraft et al. 2004 Ericson et al. 2006...

Charadrii Plovers and Allies

The Charadrii encompass the Chionididae sheathbills , Pluvianellidae Magellanic plover , Charadriidae plovers and allies , Haematopodidae oystercatchers , Recurvirostridae stilts and avocets , Ibidorhynchidae ibisbill , and Burhinidae thick-knees . Except for the Chionididae, these birds are characterized by the loss of the hallux. The Paleogene fossil record of the Charadrii is very poor. Assignment of fossils to the Recurvirostridae is based on very fragmentary remains whose identification is...

FSylphornithidae

The Sylphornithidae are tiny, long-legged birds, which were first described by Mourer-Chauvire 1988a from the late Eocene MP 16 locality Bretou of the Quercy fissure fillings. Of this French species, Sylphornis bretouensis Mourer-Chauvire, 1988, major portions of all limb bones are known Mourer-Chauvire 1988a Mayr 1998b . As noted by Mayr 1998b , the coeval and similarly sized Palaegithalus cuvieri Gervais, 1848-1852 from the late Eocene of the Paris Gypsum, which was originally described as a...

Scolopaci Sandpipers and Allies

The Scolopaci include the Jacanidae jacanas , Rostratulidae painted snipes , Pedionomidae plains wanderer , Thinocoridae seed snipes , and Scolopacidae sandpipers, snipes, and allies . Among others, these birds share the presumably derived absence of a foramen for the supracoracoideus nerve on the coracoid. Olson 1999a described remains of putative Scolopaci from the early Eocene of the Nanjemoy Formation of Virginia. Owing to the fragmentary nature of these specimens incomplete humerus and...

Putative Ratite from the Eocene of Antarctica

Tambussi et al. 1994 reported a fragmentary distal tarsometatarsus of a reputed ratite bird from the late Eocene of the La Meseta Formation of Seymour Island in Antarctica see also Tambussi and Acosta Hospitaleche 2007 . Just because of its large size, this specimen certainly comes from a flightless bird, whose weight has been estimated at 60 kg Tambussi and Acosta Hospitaleche 2007 . The fossil differs, however, from the tarsometatarsus of all unambiguous ratites in the unusually large...

FGracilitarsidae

This taxon was established for Gracilitarsus mirabilis Mayr, 1998, a tiny, long-legged bird, which is known from three skeletons from Messel Fig. 16.16 Mayr 1998b, 2001g, 2005m . The limb proportions of this species have no counterpart Fig. 16.16 Skeleton of Gracilitarsus mirabilis Mayr, 1998 Gracilitarsidae from the middle Eocene of Messel Forschungsinstitut Senckenberg, Frankfurt am Main, Germany, SMF-ME 3547 . Specimen coated with ammonium chloride. Photo by Sven Tr nkner Fig. 16.16 Skeleton...

FZygodactylidae and Passeriformes Passerines

Museum Natural History London Birds

From analyses of morphological data, the closest extant relatives of the Passeriformes were considered to be either the Piciformes or taxa of the non-monophyletic Coraciiformes Manegold 2005 Livezey and Zusi 2007 . Recent analyses of nuclear gene sequences, by contrast, resulted in a clade including the Passeriformes and Psittaciformes Ericson et al. 2006 Hackett et al. 2008 . This hypothesis is as yet not supported by independent gene loci. It is, however, of particular interest because of the...

Nyctibiidae Potoos and Caprimulgidae Nightjars

The nocturnal Nyctibiidae and Caprimulgidae share derived skull features, including a cone-like bony protrusion in the orbit, at the caudal margin of the foramen for the optic nerve, and extremely widened palatine bones Fig. 12.2 Mayr 2002b . A clade including these two taxa is also supported by an analysis of mitochondrial genes Brown et al. 2008 , but is not retained in phylogenies based on nuclear sequence data, which do not conclusively resolve their affinities Cracraft et al. 2004 Ericson...

FIdiornithidae and fElaphrocnemus

Elaphrocnemus

Most representatives of the Cariamae from the Paleogene of Europe were assigned to the Idiornithidae. These birds were first reported from the Quercy fissure fillings, where they constitute the most abundant medium-sized birds and occur in middle Eocene to late Oligocene deposits Mourer-Chauvire 1983a, 2006 . Idiornithids were also identified in the middle Eocene of Messel and the Geisel Valley in Germany Peters 1995 Mayr 2000d, 2002a . Mourer-Chauvire 1999b, p. 85 further mentioned the...

FOgygoptyngidae

The single species classified into this taxon is Ogygoptynx wetmorei Rich and Bohaska, 1976, which is the earliest strigiform bird yet reported. O. wetmorei is represented by a tarsometatarsus from the late Paleocene Tiffanian of Colorado Rich and Bohaska 1976, 1981 . The bone is elongate and slender as in crown group Tytonidae, and more closely resembles the tarsometatarsus of extant owls than do the tarsometatarsi of Berruornis and the Protostrigidae. In particular, the enlarged trochlea for...

Anseranatidae Magpie Geese

Anatalavis

The Australian New Guinean Magpie Goose Anseranas semipalmata is the sole extant member of the Anseranatidae. Putative stem group representatives of this taxon were reported from fossil sites in North America and Europe. The first species hypothesized to be such belong to the taxon Anatalavis, which was originally erected for A. rex from the late Cretaceous early Paleocene Hornerstown Formation of New Jersey Olson and Parris 1987 . The holotype and only known specimen of this species is a...

Accipitridae and Pandionidae

The fossil record indicates that the divergence between the accipitrid and pandionid lineages took place before the Oligocene. Extant ospreys have a nearly global distribution, but all Paleogene fossils stem from Old World sites. The earliest specimen is an ungual phalanx from the late Eocene of England Harrison and Walker 1976a . Although isolated ungual phalanges of birds can seldom be reliably identified, those of ospreys exhibit a characteristic derived morphology, which is related to their...

Ralloidea Finfoots and Rails

The Rallidae are most closely related to the Heliornithidae Cracraft et al. 2004 Ericson et al. 2006 Fain et al. 2007 , and an analysis by Hackett et al. 2008 even showed them to be paraphyletic with respect to the latter. Extant rails are globally distributed and include ecologically diversified taxa, such a crakes Crex, Porzana and coots Fulica . As an adaptation to their habitat, mainly dense clutter of reeds, they have a mediolaterally compressed body, which is reflected osteologically by a...

FHalcyornithidae Pseudasturidae

Assignment of this taxon to stem group Psittaciformes is more controversial than that of the species discussed in Sect. 16.3.1, although its representatives are fairly abundant in the early and middle Eocene of Europe Fur Formation, London Clay, Messel, Geisel Valley, and Egem in Belgium and the early Eocene of the North American Green River Formation Mayr 1998c, 2002a, h, 2007b Dyke 2001e Dyke and Cooper 2000 Kristoffersen 2002a Waterhouse et al. 2008 see also Hoch 1988 . On the basis of a...

Phoenicopteriformes Flamingos and Podicipediformes Grebes

Bird Coracoid

A sister group relationship between these two taxa was recognized only recently Chap. 3 , and the fossil record is still in need of a thorough revision in the light of this new hypothesis. Flamingos and grebes distinctly differ in many osteological features, and statements about character polarity are aggravated by the fact that the sister taxon of the clade Phoenicopteriformes Podicipediformes is unknown. Crown group Podicipediformes are rather short-legged, foot-propelled diving birds with a...

Phasianidae Grouse Quails Pheasants and Allies

The Phasianidae are the most species-rich and most widely distributed group of extant Galliformes and occur in a great variety of habitats, from semideserts to tropical forests and subantarctic tundra. Molecular studies indicate that the Numidinae guinea fowl and Odontophorinae New World quail are successive sister taxa of the remaining Phasianidae Kriegs et al. 2007 . Osteologically, all nonnumidine phasianids are characterized by the presence of an intermetacarpal process on the...

Anatidae Ducks Geese and Swans

Most extant anseriform species belong to the Anatidae, which are widespread in all kinds of aquatic and semiaquatic environments. Anatids typically are short-legged birds. The crown group representatives are characterized by the reduction of the foramen for the supracoracoideus nerve on the coracoid, which in some extant representatives of early diverging lineages still forms a notch in the medial margin of the bone. The Paleogene fossil record of duck- or goose-like birds is very incomplete....

FProcrax fArchaealectrornis and fPalaeonossax

These three taxa from the late Eocene and early Oligocene of North America may be closely related and are thus discussed together in this section. Procrax brevipes Tordoff and Macdonald, 1957 is based on a dissociated post-cranial skeleton from the late Eocene Chadron Formation of South Dakota. The species was initially placed into the Gallinuloididae, which were considered to be most closely related to the Cracidae by Tordoff and Macdonald 1957 . In contrast to the humerus of the...

FEleutherornithidae

A cranial portion of a large pelvis from the middle Eocene of Switzerland was described as Eleutherornis helveticus by Schaub 1940 , who assumed that it is from a ratite bird. E. helveticus was about the size of a Lesser Rhea Pterocnemia pennata . The pelvis fragment has not yet been compared in detail with that of the neognathous Gastornithidae Sect. 6.2 , and there is no compelling evidence that it is from a ratite. Schaub 1940 noted several features in which it differs from extant ratites...

Procellariiformes Tubenoses

Fossil Femur

All Procellariiformes are pelagic birds, which mainly feed on squid or fish and are characterized by the possession of tubular nostrils. The extant species are classified into four taxa, the Hydrobatidae storm-petrels , Diomedeidae albatrosses , Procellariidae fulmars, petrels, shearwaters , and Pelecanoididae diving-petrels . There is, however, evidence from morphological and molecular studies that the Procellariidae are not monophyletic but encompass the Pelecanoididae likewise, monophyly of...

Threskiornithidae Ibises

Paleocene Primates Humerus

The earliest unambiguous representative of the Threskiornithidae is Rhynchaeites messelensis Wittich, 1898 from Messel, of which more than a dozen partial or complete skeletons have been found Fig. 7.8 . R. messelensis was originally assigned to the charadriiform Rostratulidae painted snipes by Wittich 1898 and was also misidentified as a charadriiform bird by Hoch 1980 . Its threskiornithid affinities were recognized by Peters 1983 , and the species was classified in the monotypic taxon...

Mesozoic Neornithes

To set the following sections on Paleogene birds into a full context, the Mesozoic fossil record of Neornithes is briefly outlined in this chapter. In-depth information on Mesozoic nonneornithine birds can be found in Chiappe and Witmer 2002 and Chiappe 2007 . Hope 2002 reviewed the Mesozoic fossil record of putative Neornithes and listed the described taxa a similar table was published in Dyke 2001a . All of the specimens that were considered correctly identified by Hope 2002 are from late...

FCladornithidae

Enigmatic Fossil

The phylogenetic affinities of few avian taxa are as enigmatic as those of Cladornis pachypus Ameghino, 1895. The holotype and only fossil record of this large species is an incomplete tarsometatarsus from the late Oligocene Deseadan of the Fig. 16.17 Right tarsometatarsus of Cladornispachypus Ameghino, 1895 from the late Oligocene of Patagonia holotype, Natural History Museum, London, UK, BMNH A 589 in dorsal a , plantar b , and distal c views. Photos by Sven Tr nkner Fig. 16.17 Right...

FRemiornithidae

Paleocene Fossil Birds

The Remiornithidae are a further group of Paleogene Northern Hemisphere palaeognathous birds. The single species included in the taxon Remiornis heberti Lemoine, 1881 is represented by leg bones tibiotarsus and tarsometatarsus and a few associated remains from the late Paleocene of France Martin 1992 . The tarsometatarsus is about the length of that of Palaeotis weigelti but is much stouter, indicating a significantly larger overall size of Remiornis heberti. The tibiotarsus lacks an ossified...

The Impact of Passerines on the Diversity of Paleogene Avian Insectivores

Today, most small insectivorous or omnivorous birds belong to the Passeriformes, which also constitute the majority of perching birds. As noted in Sect. 16.4.2, there exist remains of presumptive passerines from the early Eocene of Australia. Outside this continent, passerines first occur in the early Oligocene of Europe, where they did not become the predominant group of small arboreal birds before the late Oligocene. Passerines have no Paleogene fossil record in the New World and Africa in...

Fregatidae Frigatebirds and Suloidea Gannets Boobies Cormorants and Anhingas

Various phylogenetic analyses of different data congruently support a sister group relationship between the Fregatidae and Suloidea, i.e., a clade including the Sulidae, Phalacrocoracidae, and Anhingidae Ericson et al. 2006 Mayr 2008b Brown et al. 2008 . Among others, these taxa share a greatly abbreviated tarsometa-tarsus, which is only about half of the length of the carpometacarpus, a distally protruding trochlea for the second toe, and a pectinate claw of the third toe Mayr 2003a, 2008b ....

FGastornithidae

The Gastornithidae are large, flightless, and graviportal birds, which occurred in the Paleocene to middle Eocene of Europe and the early Eocene of North America and Asia. The first fossils were reported from the late Paleocene of France by H bert 1855 and were classified in the taxon Gastornis. Owing to the fragmentary nature of the then known specimens, early reconstructions of these European gastornithids were patently false Martin 1992 . This prevented recognition of their close similarity...

Leptosomidae Courols

The single extant species of the Leptosomidae, the Courol or Cuckoo-roller, Leptosomus discolor, is a carnivorous, forest-dwelling bird of Madagascar and the Comoro Islands. The phylogenetic affinities of this species are uncertain, but contrary to traditional classifications, it is not closely related to the Coraciidae true rollers and Brachypteraciidae ground rollers see Chap. 3 . Fossil stem group representatives from the lower and middle Eocene of Europe and North America show that...

Phalacrocoracidae Cormorants and Anhingidae Anhingas

Protoplotus

The piscivorous Phalacrocoracidae live in lacustrine and coastal habitats, and today have a global distribution. They are the sister taxon of the Anhingidae, which occur in tropical regions worldwide. Anhingas have no unequivocal Paleogene fossil record see Sect. 7.1.1 concerning Protoplotus , and all Paleogene fossils of the Phalacrocoracidae stem from deposits in the Old World. The earliest record of a cormorant-like bird is an incomplete upper beak from the late Eocene MP 17 Mlikovsky 2002...

FLithornithidae

Unambiguous representatives of these superficially tinamou-like birds Fig. 5.1 were reported from the late Paleocene to middle Eocene of North America and the early and middle Eocene of Europe. Although some remains from the London Clay Fig. 5.1 Skeleton of the lithornithid Pseudocrypturus cercanaxius Houde, 1988 from the early Eocene Green River Formation private collection in Switzerland, cast in Forschungsinstitut Senckenberg, Frankfurt am Main, Germany . Photo courtesy of Peter Houde Fig....

Bucerotes Hornbills Hoopoes and Woodhoopoes

Extant Bucerotes comprise the Bucerotiformes hornbills , which occur in Africa and Asia and have no Paleogene fossil record, and the Upupiformes, which include the African and Eurasian Upupidae hoopoes and the African Phoeniculidae woodhoopoes Mayr 1998b Mayr et al. 2003 Ericson et al. 2006 Livezey and Zusi 2007 Brown et al. 2008 . Stem group representatives of the Upupiformes were reported from the early Eocene London Clay and the middle Eocene of Messel and the Geisel Valley Mayr Fig. 16.12...

Aegothelidae Owlet Nightjars and Apodiformes Swifts and Hummingbirds

There exists congruent evidence from multiple analyses of different data that the Australasian Aegothelidae are the sister taxon of apodiform birds Mayr 2002b Mayr et al. 2003 Cracraft et al. 2004 Ericson et al. 2006 . Extant Apodiformes include the Southeast Asian Hemiprocnidae tree swifts , the globally distributed Apodidae true swifts , and the Trochilidae hummingbirds , which today occur only in the New World. All representatives of the Apodiformes are small to very small birds with a...

Caprimulgidae

The modern representatives of this taxon have a worldwide distribution and include more than 80 species, but its Paleogene fossil record is very sparse. Olson 1999a tentatively assigned to the Caprimulgidae some isolated bones proximal humerus, carpometacarpus, and distal tarsometatarsus from the early Eocene Nanjemoy Formation of Virginia, which belong to at least two different small species. The only other Paleogene specimens are two coracoids from the late Eocene of the Quercy fissure...

Strigiformes Owls

Crown group Strigiformes are divided into the Tytonidae barn owls and Strigidae true owls . The latter have a worldwide distribution, whereas barn owls are absent from the northern parts of Asia and North America. All owls possess semizygodac-tyl feet and most extant species are crepuscular or nocturnal. The osteological features of owls are distinctive and allow an unambiguous identification of the major postcranial bones. The fossil record of strigiform birds goes back into the Paleocene and...

FPumiliornis and fMorsoravis

Pumiliornis tessellatus Mayr, 1999 is a tiny, wren-sized species, of which two skeletons were found in Messel Fig. 11.2 Mayr 1999c, 2008a . It exhibits a very unusual morphology in combining a long, probably schizorhinal beak with short and robust feet with a well-developed hallux. Other peculiar features include a far caudally positioned sternal keel, and the absence of an ossified supratendinal bridge on the distal end of the tibiotarsus. The bodies of the thoracic vertebrae bear marked...

FBathornithidae

All Paleogene North American Cariamae are classified in the Bathornithidae, which, following the revision of the North American biostratigraphy Prothero 1994 , occur in middle Eocene to late Oligocene deposits. The first specimens of this group were described by Wetmore 1927 from the late Eocene of Colorado. After initial classification into the charadriiform Burhinidae, Wetmore 1933b assumed that they are most closely related to the Cariamidae. The taxonomy and phylogenetic affinities of...

FPlotopteridae

These large, flightless, and wing-propelled diving seabirds were found in late Eocene to early Miocene deposits of the northern Pacific, i.e., western North America and Japan. Most fossils come from deep-water strata which were deposited offshore Goedert and Cornish 2002 see, however, Sakurai et al. 2008 . The earliest specimens assigned to the taxon belong to an as yet unnamed species from the late Eocene of Washington State Goedert and Cornish 2002 . They include a partial skeleton referred...

Lari Gulls Auks and Allies

The Lari comprise the Dromadidae crab plover , Stercorariidae skuas , Alcidae auks , Laridae gulls , Sternidae terns , Rynchopidae skimmers , and Glareolidae pratincoles and coursers . With the exception of some Glareolidae, all of these birds live in aquatic environments. The Turnicidae buttonquails are the sister taxon of the above-mentioned taxa Paton et al. 2003 Paton and Baker 2006 Fain and Houde 2007 . The earliest fossil Alcidae come from North American deposits, which may indicate that...

FPelagornithidae Bony Toothed Birds

Caspiodontornis

These large to very large marine birds are characterized by the possession of irregular spiny projections along the tomia of the long beak, extremely thin walled bones, and a highly derived morphology of the humerus. They occur in late Paleocene to Pliocene deposits, and appear to have already achieved a global distribution in the early Paleogene. Among the earliest and most substantial Paleogene remains of bony-toothed birds are three-dimensionally preserved bones, which Bourdon 2005, 2006...

Megapodiidae Megapodes

The only Paleogene fossil record of the Megapodiidae is Ngawupodius minya Boles and Ivison, 1999 from the late Oligocene of Central Australia Namba Formation . This species is known from a tarsometatarsus which measures only two thirds of that of the smallest extant megapodes, to which it is otherwise quite similar in its morphology. Apart from its larger size, this bone also resembles the megapode-like tarsometatarsus of the Quercymegapodiidae, but from a biogeographic point of view an...

Core Gruiformes Rails Cranes and Allies

The traditional Gruiformes constitute a polyphyletic taxon Chap. 3 , but current analyses congruently support a sister group relationship between the Ralloidea and Gruoidea, i.e., the clades Rallidae Heliornithidae and Psophiidae Aramidae Gruidae Livezey 1998 Cracraft et al. 2004 Ericson et al. 2006 Fain et al. 2007 Harshman 2007 Mayr 2008b . These taxa are referred to here as core-Gruiformes. Mainly because of the apomorphic morphology of the aquatic Heliornithidae, it is difficult to...

Trochilidae Hummingbirds

Although the nectarivorous Trochilidae are today among the most characteristic birds of the New World avifauna, Paleogene stem group representatives of this taxon were only found in fossil sites in Europe. Wing remains of a small hummingbird-like apodiform bird were first reported by Karhu 1988 from the early Oligocene of the Caucasus, who assigned these bones to the species Jungornis tesselatus within the new taxon Jungornithidae. Subsequently, Karhu 1999 also classified a second, slightly...

Piciformes Jacamars Puffbirds Woodpeckers and Allies

The zygodactyl Piciformes comprise the Neotropic Galbulae jacamars and puffbirds and the Pici barbets, toucans, honeyguides, woodpeckers and allies , which have a nearly worldwide distribution but do not occur in the Australian region and on Madagascar. In addition to a unique arrangement of the digital flexor tendons, piciform birds exhibit a derived morphology of the proximal phalanx of the major digit of the wing Mayr et al. 2003 Manegold 2005 . The Paleogene fossil record of piciform birds...

FAmeghinornithidae

The Ameghinornithidae include presumably flightless, or nearly so, birds with a convoluted taxonomic history. The taxon was first established for a species from an unknown horizon of the Quercy fissure fillings. This was classified as Ameghinornis minor by Mourer-Chauvire 1981 , who assigned to it a humerus, two coracoids, and two carpometacarpi. The holotypic humerus of A. minor was originally described as Strigogyps minor by Gaillard 1939 , who before Gaillard 1908 named another species of...

Sulidae Gannets and Boobies

The extant species of the Sulidae are exclusively marine birds, which plunge-dive to capture fish or squid. All Paleogene fossils of the taxon were recorded from European fossil sites and mainly consist of fragmentary remains of uncertain affinities. Masillastega rectirostris Mayr, 2002 from Messel is known from an isolated skull and was only tentatively identified as a stem group representative of the Sulidae Mayr 2002c . M. rectirostris has a long, straight beak, which is deep in its proximal...

Podargidae Frogmouths

Mayr Senckenberg Fossil Bird

Paleogene fossils of this group, which is today confined to Australasia, were reported from the late Eocene MP 16 of the Quercy fissure fillings and from Messel Mourer-Chauvire 1989 Mayr 1999b, 2001b . The French species, Quercypodargus olsoni Mourer-Chauvire, 1989, is known from tarsometatarsi and distal tibiotarsi. The species from Messel, Masillapodargus longipes Mayr, 1999, is based on articulated skeletons Fig. 12.5 , which show the characteristic wide, dorsoventrally flattened and broadly...