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A roller-like bird (Coracii) from the Early Eocene of Denmark

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

ABSTRACT

The fossil record of crown group birds (Neornithes) prior to the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary is scarce and fragmentary. Early Cenozoic bird fossils are more abundant, but are typically disarticulated and/or flattened. Here we report the oldest roller (Coracii), Septencoracias morsensis gen. et sp. nov. (Primobucconidae), based on a new specimen from the Early Eocene (about 54 million years ago) Fur Formation of Denmark. The new fossil is a nearly complete, three-dimensionally preserved and articulated skeleton. It lies at the lower end of the size range for extant rollers. Salient diagnostic features of Septencoracias relative to other Coracii include the proportionally larger skull and the small, ovoid and dorsally positioned narial openings. Our discovery adds to the evidence that the Coracii had a widespread northern hemisphere distribution in the Eocene. Septencoracias is the oldest substantial record of the Picocoraciae and provides a reliable calibration point for molecular phylogenetic studies.

No MeSH data available.


Photographs of the holotype of Septencoracias morsensis gen. et sp. nov. (MGUH.VP 9509).(a) Skull in left lateral view. (b) Right foot in medial view. (c) Left foot in dorsal view. (d) Right humerus in cranial view. (e) Right carpometacarpus in ventral view.
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f2: Photographs of the holotype of Septencoracias morsensis gen. et sp. nov. (MGUH.VP 9509).(a) Skull in left lateral view. (b) Right foot in medial view. (c) Left foot in dorsal view. (d) Right humerus in cranial view. (e) Right carpometacarpus in ventral view.

Mentions: The skull of the new fossil is slightly eroded, because it had been exposed at the time of its discovery (Figs 1 and 2a). The head and the first five cervical vertebrae are slightly displaced from the remaining vertebral column (Figs 1 and S3). The left wing is folded tightly, whereas the right wing is partially stretched out. The right leg is still in articulation with the pelvis. Despite the bird still has the wings located close to their original position relative to the rest of the skeleton, it does not preserve the sternum, most shoulder girdle elements including the coracoids, part of the left pelvis and proximal part of the left hindlimb. Dark blotches tentatively interpreted as soft tissue remains are observable in the pelvis region (Figs 1, S3 and S4). Dark stains of carbonaceous material are also visible caudal to the right tibiotarsus (Fig. S4). These were coated with varnish prior to acid preparation and might correspond to feather remains, although poor preservation renders such an interpretation tentative. Dissociated fish remains are concentrated in the abdominal cavity and cover the thoracic vertebrae and the anterior part of the synsacrum (Figs 1, S3 and S4).


A roller-like bird (Coracii) from the Early Eocene of Denmark
Photographs of the holotype of Septencoracias morsensis gen. et sp. nov. (MGUH.VP 9509).(a) Skull in left lateral view. (b) Right foot in medial view. (c) Left foot in dorsal view. (d) Right humerus in cranial view. (e) Right carpometacarpus in ventral view.
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC5037458&req=5

f2: Photographs of the holotype of Septencoracias morsensis gen. et sp. nov. (MGUH.VP 9509).(a) Skull in left lateral view. (b) Right foot in medial view. (c) Left foot in dorsal view. (d) Right humerus in cranial view. (e) Right carpometacarpus in ventral view.
Mentions: The skull of the new fossil is slightly eroded, because it had been exposed at the time of its discovery (Figs 1 and 2a). The head and the first five cervical vertebrae are slightly displaced from the remaining vertebral column (Figs 1 and S3). The left wing is folded tightly, whereas the right wing is partially stretched out. The right leg is still in articulation with the pelvis. Despite the bird still has the wings located close to their original position relative to the rest of the skeleton, it does not preserve the sternum, most shoulder girdle elements including the coracoids, part of the left pelvis and proximal part of the left hindlimb. Dark blotches tentatively interpreted as soft tissue remains are observable in the pelvis region (Figs 1, S3 and S4). Dark stains of carbonaceous material are also visible caudal to the right tibiotarsus (Fig. S4). These were coated with varnish prior to acid preparation and might correspond to feather remains, although poor preservation renders such an interpretation tentative. Dissociated fish remains are concentrated in the abdominal cavity and cover the thoracic vertebrae and the anterior part of the synsacrum (Figs 1, S3 and S4).

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

ABSTRACT

The fossil record of crown group birds (Neornithes) prior to the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary is scarce and fragmentary. Early Cenozoic bird fossils are more abundant, but are typically disarticulated and/or flattened. Here we report the oldest roller (Coracii), Septencoracias morsensis gen. et sp. nov. (Primobucconidae), based on a new specimen from the Early Eocene (about 54 million years ago) Fur Formation of Denmark. The new fossil is a nearly complete, three-dimensionally preserved and articulated skeleton. It lies at the lower end of the size range for extant rollers. Salient diagnostic features of Septencoracias relative to other Coracii include the proportionally larger skull and the small, ovoid and dorsally positioned narial openings. Our discovery adds to the evidence that the Coracii had a widespread northern hemisphere distribution in the Eocene. Septencoracias is the oldest substantial record of the Picocoraciae and provides a reliable calibration point for molecular phylogenetic studies.

No MeSH data available.