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Brocklehurst N.,Leibniz Institute For Evolutions Und Biodiversitatsforschung | Upchurch P.,University College London | Mannion P.D.,Leibniz Institute For Evolutions Und Biodiversitatsforschung | Mannion P.D.,Imperial College London | And 2 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2012

Many palaeobiological analyses have concluded that modern birds (Neornithes) radiated no earlier than the Maastrichtian, whereas molecular clock studies have argued for a much earlier origination. Here, we assess the quality of the fossil record of Mesozoic avian species, using a recently proposed character completeness metric which calculates the percentage of phylogenetic characters that can be scored for each taxon. Estimates of fossil record quality are plotted against geological time and compared to estimates of species level diversity, sea level, and depositional environment. Geographical controls on the avian fossil record are investigated by comparing the completeness scores of species in different continental regions and latitudinal bins. Avian fossil record quality varies greatly with peaks during the Tithonian-early Berriasian, Aptian, and Coniacian-Santonian, and troughs during the Albian-Turonian and the Maastrichtian. The completeness metric correlates more strongly with a 'sampling corrected' residual diversity curve of avian species than with the raw taxic diversity curve, suggesting that the abundance and diversity of birds might influence the probability of high quality specimens being preserved. There is no correlation between avian completeness and sea level, the number of fluviolacustrine localities or a recently constructed character completeness metric of sauropodomorph dinosaurs. Comparisons between the completeness of Mesozoic birds and sauropodomorphs suggest that small delicate vertebrate skeletons are more easily destroyed by taphonomic processes, but more easily preserved whole. Lagerstätten deposits might therefore have a stronger impact on reconstructions of diversity of smaller organisms relative to more robust forms. The relatively poor quality of the avian fossil record in the Late Cretaceous combined with very patchy regional sampling means that it is possible neornithine lineages were present throughout this interval but have not yet been sampled or are difficult to identify because of the fragmentary nature of the specimens. © 2012 Brocklehurst et al. Source


Han G.,Bohai University | Chiappe L.M.,Dinosaur Institute | Ji S.-A.,Bohai University | Ji S.-A.,Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences | And 5 more authors.
Nature Communications | Year: 2014

Microraptorines are a group of predatory dromaeosaurid theropod dinosaurs with aerodynamic capacity. These close relatives of birds are essential for testing hypotheses explaining the origin and early evolution of avian flight. Here we describe a new 'four-winged' microraptorine, Changyuraptor yangi, from the Early Cretaceous Jehol Biota of China. With tail feathers that are nearly 30 €‰cm long, roughly 30% the length of the skeleton, the new fossil possesses the longest known feathers for any non-avian dinosaur. Furthermore, it is the largest theropod with long, pennaceous feathers attached to the lower hind limbs (that is, 'hindwings'). The lengthy feathered tail of the new fossil provides insight into the flight performance of microraptorines and how they may have maintained aerial competency at larger body sizes. We demonstrate how the low-aspect-ratio tail of the new fossil would have acted as a pitch control structure reducing descent speed and thus playing a key role in landing. © 2014 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved. Source


Oconnor J.K.,Dinosaur Institute | Oconnor J.K.,Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthroplogy | Zhang Y.,Beijing Museum of Natural History | Chiappe L.M.,Dinosaur Institute | And 3 more authors.
Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology | Year: 2013

We report on a new enantiornithine bird, Sulcavis geeorum, gen. et sp. nov., from the Jehol Group of northeastern China. The fossil preserves robust teeth with longitudinal grooves radiating from the occlusal tip preserved in the enamel on the lingual surface. This is the first known occurrence of specialized tooth enamel within Aves. Compared with other Mesozoic groups, stomach contents are hardly ever preserved within enantiornithine specimens; therefore, this new tooth morphology reveals new evidence regarding the diversity of trophic niches occupied by the clade. © 2013 by the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. Source


Zhang Z.,Capital Normal University | Chiappe L.M.,Dinosaur Institute | Han G.,Bohai University | Chinsamy A.,University of Cape Town
Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology | Year: 2013

We describe the anatomy and bone histology of an enantiornithine specimen from the Early Cretaceous Jehol Group of northeastern China. CNUVB-0903 is larger than most Early Cretaceous enantiornithine birds and also different from all other named taxa. Thus, we erect the new species Zhouornis hani for the new specimen. CNUVB-0903 preserves a suite of new morphologies for the clade. Noteworthy are those of the braincase and occipital region of the skull, which was previously poorly known for enantiornithines. The morphology and placement of the large basipterygoid processes and the well-developed basisphenoid recess - comparable in morphology to those of non-avian dinosaurs - highlights the evolutionary conservatism of the enantiornithine skull. The histological characterization of CNUVB-0903 indicates that it was not yet a full-grown individual at the time of death. This, combined with the comparatively large size of the skeleton, supports previous evidence indicating that early in their history, enantiornithines were able to achieve relatively large sizes. © 2013 by the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. Source


Chiappe L.M.,Dinosaur Institute | Gohlich U.B.,Naturhistorisches Museum Wien
Neues Jahrbuch fur Geologie und Palaontologie - Abhandlungen | Year: 2010

We provide a detailed study of the morphology of the holotype of Juravenator starki from the Late Jurassic of the Solnhofen area of southern Germany. The incompletely ossified surface of multiple bones and lack of several skeletal fusions indicate that Juravenator starki is based on an immature specimen. Nonetheless, numerous unique morphologies and bone proportions distinguish this taxon from Compsognathus longipes, the only previously named non-avian theropod dinosaur from the Late Jurassic of the Solnhofen Archipelago. Yet, its skeletal anatomy is most similar to that of Compsognathus and other theropods that have often been regarded as closely related to the latter sometimes within a monophyletic Compsognathidae. Juravenator is characterized by having a small size (~ 0.75-meter-long in the holotype) with few maxillary teeth, lack of a premaxillary-maxillary diastema, an antorbital fenestra subequal in length to orbit, an elongate scapula that is narrowest at its neck, a proportionally short humerus and high and abruptly tapered manual claws, and bowlike zygapophysial articulations in the mid-caudal vertebrae. Portions of the epidermis preserved mainly along the tail provide the only glimpse of the morphology of the skin of basal coelurosaurs, and structures newly revealed under UV light hint at the possibility of filamentous integumentary structures - akin to those interpreted as proto-feathers in other basal coelurosaurs - also covering the body of this dinosaur. The discovery of Juravenator has provided evidence of morphologies - from details of the skull to the epidermis - that are poorly known in other theropods interpreted as at or near the base of Coelurosauria, and thus contributes significantly to our understanding of the evolutionary history of this clade. The exquisitely preserved holotipic skeleton adds significantly to the meager record of small-bodied Late Jurassic theropods. © 2010 E. Schweizerbart'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, Stuttgart, Germany. Source

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