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...

Podargidae Frogmouths

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...

FEocoraciidae and fGeranopteridae

These two taxa are very similar to modern rollers in their skeletal morphology. E. brachyptera Mayr and Mourer-Chauvire, 2000 is known from articulated skeletons from Messel (Fig. 16.14). The fossils allow the recognition of greatly elongated Fig. 16.14 Partial skeleton of Eocoracias brachyptera Mayr and Mourer-Chauvire, 2000 (Eocoraciidae) from the middle Eocene of Messel (Forschungsinstitut Senckenberg, Frankfurt am Main, Germany, SMF-ME 3364a). Specimen coated with ammonium chloride. (Photo...

Aramidae Limpkins and Gruidae Cranes

The extant representatives of these two taxa have a complementary distribution, with the Aramidae occurring in South America and Central America, and the Gruidae on all other continents. A putative member of the Aramidae from the early Oligocene (Brule Formation) of South Dakota was described as Badistornis aramus by Wetmore (1940). This species is known from a nearly complete tarsometatarsus, which resembles that of extant Aramidae in the strongly plantarly deflected troch-lea for the second...

Anseranatidae Magpie Geese

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...

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...

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...

FZygodactylidae and Passeriformes Passerines

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...

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...

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...

Anhimidae Screamers

The three extant species of the Anhimidae are endemic to South America and most conspicuously differ from other anseriform birds in bill morphology, the absence of webbed feet, and the highly pneumatized skeleton. The only published Paleogene remains of this group of birds were described by Alvarenga (1999) from the late Oligocene early Miocene of the Taubate Basin in Brazil. The description of Chaunoides antiquus Alvarenga, 1999 was based on several isolated postcranial bones. C. antiquus was...

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...

FIdiornithidae and fElaphrocnemus

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...

FPsittacopes and Allies

Black And White Bird

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...

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...

Phalacrocoracidae Cormorants and Anhingidae Anhingas

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...

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...

Threskiornithidae Ibises

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...

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...

Procellariiformes Tubenoses

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...

FPlotopteridae

Images Plotopterids

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...

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...

FGastornithidae

Dromornithidae Tarsometatarsus

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...

FPelagornithidae Bony Toothed Birds

Thambetochen Xanion

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...

Higher Level Phylogeny of Extant Birds

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...

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...

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...