New material of Early Cretaceous ornithurine bird Gansus supporting it’s a volant and diving bird

Nov 07, 2011
Fig.1: Furcula and sternum of Gansus yumenensis (Images by LI Yan)

LI Yan, associate curator of Gansu Museum, collected 9 specimens of Gansus for further study during his fieldwork from 2002 to 2004. He and his collaborators from Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Key Laboratory of Evolutionary Systematics of Vertebrates, Chinese Academy of Sciences, described some new anatomical features, as reported in the latest issue of Vertebrata PalAsiatic 2011(4), adding to our understanding of the skeletal anatomy of this basal ornithurine.

Gansus yumenensis is the first Mesozoic bird found in China, originally based only on a unique specimen of the left foot from the Lower Cretaceous (115 to 105 million years ago) Xiagou Formation near Changma, Gansu Province, northwestern China in 1984. Later on, five more well-preserved specimens were found in mudstone at the site of an ancient lake at Changma, Gansu; the geological stratum in which the fossils were found is considered to be equivalent to the Early Cretaceous strata yielding the Jehol biota in western Liaoning. It is recognized as more closely allied to neornithean birds than to Archaeopteryx.

Fig.2: Forelimbs of Gansus yumenensis (Images by LI Yan)

Gansus yumenensis was about the size of a pigeon and similar in appearance to loons and diving ducks. It had many features common among modern , and also retained some primitive traits such as its clawed wings.

LI and his collaborators described some newly discovered postcranial material of Gansus yumenensis, and such include a laterally exposed sternum with a sickle-shaped keel, the ulnare with small metacarpal incision, complete loss of ungual of the minor digit, and manual phalangeal formula of “2−3−1”, as well as some more detailed features of the leg bones.

“The new material not only provided additional evidence of interdigital web but also preserved some scale-like skin impressions near the joint between the tibiotarsus and tarsometatarsus”, said Dr. ZHOU Zhonghe, co-author, Institute of and Paleoanthropology, .

Fig.3: Hindlimbs and skin impression of Gansus yumenensis (Images by LI Yan)

“Based on some characters such as elongated phalanges and short claws with pointed flexor tubercles, Gansus yumenensis is regarded as the bird adapted to life in the aquatic environment. Our statistic analysis of the measurements of the sternum and major elements of the leg of Gansus further supports the hypothesis that this bird was a volant and diving bird, similar to that of extant ducks”, said Dr. ZHANG Yu-Guang, co-author, Key Laboratory of Evolutionary Systematics of , Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Beijing Museum of Natural History.

Explore further: Archaeologists, tribe clash over Native remains

Provided by Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Early cretaceous birds with crops found in China

Sep 06, 2011

The crop is characteristic of seed-eating birds today, yet little is known about its early history despite remarkable discoveries of many Mesozoic seed-eating birds in the past decade. Scientists from Institute ...

Earliest toothless bird found

Dec 10, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new species of bird from the Cretaceous period in China has been identified. It had toothless upper and lower jaws, and provides significant information on the diversification in the evolution ...

Archaeopteryx and the dinosaur-bird family tree

Sep 15, 2011

The magpie-sized Archaeopteryx had bird and dinosaur features and helped show that birds evolved from dinosaurs. However, recent research in the journal Nature questions its position in the dinosaur-bird family ...

Prehistoric bird fossil found in China

Dec 15, 2005

The fossil of a previously unknown water bird that lived some 125 million years ago has been found in sandstone near Inner Mongolia in northeast China.

Recommended for you

Archaeologists, tribe clash over Native remains

7 hours ago

Archaeologists and Native Americans are clashing over Indian remains and artifacts that were excavated during a construction project in the San Francisco Bay Area, but then reburied at an undisclosed location.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Not just the poor live hand-to-mouth

When the economy hits the skids, government stimulus checks to the poor sometimes follow. Stimulus programs—such as those in 2001, 2008 and 2009—are designed to boost the economy quickly by getting cash ...

Male-biased tweeting

Today women take an active part in public life. Without a doubt, they also converse with other women. In fact, they even talk to each other about other things besides men. As banal as it sounds, this is far ...

Archaeologists, tribe clash over Native remains

Archaeologists and Native Americans are clashing over Indian remains and artifacts that were excavated during a construction project in the San Francisco Bay Area, but then reburied at an undisclosed location.

Math modeling handbook now available

Math comes in handy for answering questions about a variety of topics, from calculating the cost-effectiveness of fuel sources and determining the best regions to build high-speed rail to predicting the spread ...