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First giant bony-toothed bird (Pelagornithidae) from
Australia
Erich M. G. Fitzgerald a , Travis Park a b & Trevor H. Worthy c
a Geosciences, Museum Victoria, GPO Box 666, Melbourne, Victoria, 3001, Australia
b School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University, Victoria, 3125, Australia
c School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales,
New South Wales, 2052, Australia
Version of record first published: 26 Jun 2012
To cite this article: Erich M. G. Fitzgerald, Travis Park & Trevor H. Worthy (2012): First giant bony-toothed bird
(Pelagornithidae) from Australia, Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 32:4, 971-974
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02724634.2012.664596
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Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 32(4):971–974, July 2012
©2012 by the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology
SHORT COMMUNICATION
FIRST GIANT BONY-TOOTHED BIRD (PELAGORNITHIDAE) FROM AUSTRALIA
ERICH M. G. FITZGERALD,*,1,TRAVIS PARK,1,2,and TREVOR H. WORTHY3;1Geosciences, Museum Victoria, GPO Box
666, Melbourne, Victoria 3001, Australia, efitzgerald@museum.vic.gov.au; 2School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin
University, Victoria 3125, Australia, tpark@deakin.edu.au; 3School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of
New South Wales, New South Wales 2052, Australia, t.worthy@unsw.edu.au
The Pelagornithidae, or ‘giant bony-toothed birds,’ are enig-
matic extinct seabirds with a long history spanning the late
Paleocene–late Pliocene (Harrison, 1985; Mourer-Chauvir´
eand
Geraads, 2008, 2010; Bourdon, 2011). In parallel with their ex-
tensive chronostratigraphic distribution, pelagornithids have thus
far been recorded from all continents with the notable exception
of Australia (Mayr, 2011; contra Boessenecker and Smith, 2011).
Here we document the first evidence of Pelagornithidae in Aus-
tralia: a diagnostic Pelagornis tibiotarsus and non-associated frag-
mentary appendicular elements from the Mio–Pliocene of Beau-
maris, Victoria (Fig. 1). This discovery confirms the distribution
of pelagornithids on every continent and the global distribution
of the genus Pelagornis during the late Neogene.
Institutional AbbreviationsNMV B, Museum Victoria Or-
nithology Collection, Melbourne, Australia; NMV P,Museum
Victoria Palaeontology Collection, Melbourne, Australia.
Comparative Material—NMV B14118, Anatidae (Cygnus
atratus); NMV B14141, Ciconiidae (Ciconia ciconia); NMV
B19868, Diomedeidae (Diomedea exulans); NMV B13108,
Gruidae (Grus rubicunda); NMV B30197, Pelecanidae (Pele-
canus conspicillatus); NMV B13046, Phalacrocoracidae (Pha-
lacrocorax varius); NMV B737, Phoenicopteridae (Phoeni-
copterus ruber); NMV B25182, Procellariidae (Macronectus gi-
ganteus); NMV B6550, Sulidae (Morus serrator). Osteological
terminology follows Baumel and Witmer (1993).
SYSTEMATIC PALEONTOLOGY
AVES Linnaeus, 1758
PELAGORNITHIDAE F ¨
urbringer, 1888
PELAGORNIS Lartet, 1857
PELAGORNIS sp.
(Figs. 2–4)
Referred Material—NMV P218277, distal third of a right
tibiotarsus, collected by G. McWilliams and D. Pickering in
2004 (Figs. 2–3); NMV P161759, NMV P231787, NMV P231788,
three ?humerus fragments, collected by T. Flannery ca. 1975
(Fig. 4).
Locality—Western shore of Beaumaris Bay at Beaumaris,
northeast side of Port Phillip Bay, central coastal Victoria, south-
east Australia; NMV P161759, NMV P231787, NMV P231788
near 375934S, 1450232E; NMV P218277 at 375936S,
1450229E (Fig. 1).
Horizon—NMV P161759, NMV P231787, and NMV P231788
were collected as float in the intertidal zone; NMV P218277 was
derived from a boulder of calcarenite on the shoreline at high
tide mark; Black Rock Sandstone Formation; late Miocene–early
Pliocene (late Messinian–early Zanclean), 6.2–5.0 Ma based on
Sr dating (Dickinson and Wallace, 2009).
*Corresponding author. These authors contributed equally to this
work.
Diagnosis—A tibiotarsus with the following combination of
features unique to Pelagornithidae: deep fossa extensoria; the
proximal attachment site for the retinaculum extensorium tibio-
tarsi is located in the distomedial corner of the fossa extenso-
ria; sulcus extensorius with a salient medial border; the distal
attachment for the retinaculum extensorium tibiotarsi is located
lateral to the pons supratendineus; pons supratendineus forms a
low acute angle (about 20) with the horizontal; distal exit of the
canalis extensorius is oval, located medial to the midline of the
shaft; sulcus musculi fibularis oriented craniolaterally; condylus
lateralis cranially rounded and mediolaterally narrow; impressio
ligamenti intercondylaris well developed; and trochlea cartilagi-
nis tibialis shallow. The extreme thinness of the bone also ex-
cludes virtually all avian groups, except for pelicans. Differs from
Odontopteryx toliapica Owen, 1873 (sensu Mayr and Zvonok,
2011), and Dasornis (character states for these taxa given in
brackets, below) in: fossa extensoria (absent), proximal attach-
ment of retinaculum extensorium tibiotarsi small and in disto-
medial corner of fossa extensoria (elongate, on medial side of
distal end of sulcus extensorius), distal attachment of retinacu-
lum extensorium tibiotarsi a small ovoid tuberosity (large, elon-
gate), and distal border of sulcus musculi fibularis stops level
with midline of distal opening of canalis extensorius (terminates
more proximally). NMV P218277 is hereby referred to Pelagor-
nis Lartet, 1857. Differing from described tibiotarsi of Pelagornis
spp. in having relatively wider pons supratendineus.
Referred Specimens—NMV P161759, NMV P231787, and
NMV P231788 (Table 1) are tentatively referred to Pelagornis,
and are probably humeral fragments, as inferred from their simi-
larities in size and cross-sectional thickness to material described
by Mayr and Rubilar-Rogers (2010) and Boessenecker and Smith
(2011). The discovery of the Pelagornis tibiotarsus from the same
formation in which these fragments were found supports their
identity as Pelagornis. Due to their fragmentary nature, these
specimens are not analyzed further.
Description—Few pelagornithid tibiotarsi have been de-
scribed, and it is only recently that the morphology of both
Paleogene (Bourdon et al., 2010) and Neogene (Mayr and
Rubilar-Rogers, 2010; Mayr and Zvonok, 2011) taxa has been
documented in detail. Museum Victoria (NMV) specimen
P218277 is an incomplete right tibiotarsus (Figs. 2–3). Only the
most distal part of the shaft and the extremitas distalis is pre-
served, although the condylus medialis is missing. The specimen
is similar in size to the tibiotarsus of Pelagornis chilensis Mayr
and Rubilar-Rogers, 2010, implying that NMV P218277 repre-
sents a Pelagornis in the uppermost size range of pelagornithids.
The maximum proximodistal length of the specimen is 88.9 mm
and the minimum and maximum widths of the shaft are 20.0
and 22.5 mm, respectively. The shaft is extremely thin walled
(0.5–2 mm), oval in cross-section, and tapers laterally. Viewed
cranially, the shallow sulcus extensorius is located centrally on
the shaft, and has a salient medial border. The sulcus extensorius
terminates distally in an abruptly deepened fossa; here termed
the fossa extensoria (Figs. 2–3), which also occurs in Pelagornis
971
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972 JOURNAL OF VERTEBRATE PALEONTOLOGY, VOL. 32, NO. 4, 2012
FIGURE 1. Locality of Beaumaris in Victoria, southeast Australia.
chilensis (see Mayr and Rubilar-Rogers, 2010:fig. 7H). Proxi-
mally the sulcus extensorius has collapsed in NMV P218277,
leaving two small bony projections that delineate the fossa exten-
soria (Fig. 3). The proximal attachment site of the retinaculum
extensorium tibiotarsi is positioned at the distomedial corner
of the fossa extensoria. The cranial face of the ossified pons
supratendineus is flat, and 6.3 mm wide (Figs. 2–3). The pons is
wide relative to that of P. chilensis, but appears to be of similar
proportions to that of Odontopteryx toliapica Owen, 1873 (sensu
Mayr and Zvonok, 2011), as shown in Bourdon et al. (2010). It is
also aligned obliquely to the horizontal plane and possesses sharp
proximal and distal margins, the latter of which runs into the
lateral tuberositas retinaculi extensori. Lateral of and adjacent
to the pons supratendineus is a small tuberosity that is the distal
attachment site of the retinaculum extensorium tibiotarsi. Along
the craniolateral margin, the sulcus musculi fibularis is a shallow
groove parallel to the sulcus extensorius defined by low crests.
This sulcus extends more distally to that in O. toliapica.The
distal exit of the canalis extensorius lies medial to the midline
(proximodistally) of the sulcus extensorius and is oval in shape
and tapered laterally. The condylus lateralis is cranially rounded
and mediolaterally narrow, with a width of 8.2 mm. In lateral
view, it possesses an oblique caudal margin and protrudes 9.8 mm
cranially beyond the incisura intercondylaris. The tuberositas
retinaculi musculi fibularis is reasonably well developed and is
bordered proximally by a thin ridge that runs up to the facies ar-
ticularis fibulae. The depressio epicondylaris lateralis is shallow.
The epicondylaris lateralis is oblique to the horizontal plane. The
FIGURE 2. Pelagornis sp., NMV P218277, isolated distal end of right tibiotarsus in A, cranial view; B, craniomedial view; C, medial view; D, caudal
view; E, lateral view. Abbreviations:cla, condylus lateralis; del, depressio epicondylaris; ela, epicondylaris lateralis; faf, facies articularis fibularis; fca,
facies caudalis; fcr, facies cranialis; foe, fossa extensoria; pst, pons supratendineus; sue, sulcus extensorius; trf, tuberositas retinaculi musculi fibularis.
Specimen whitened with ammonium chloride.
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SHORT COMMUNICATIONS 973
FIGURE 3. Pelagornis sp., NMV P218277, isolated right tibiotarsus. A,
detail of distal end in cranial view; B, distal view. Abbreviations: cex,
canalis extensorius; cla, condylus lateralis; ctr, cristae trochleae; det,dis-
tal attachment for retinaculum extensorium tibiotarsi; foe, fossa exten-
soria; iic, incisura intercondylaris; ili, impressio ligamenti intercondylaris;
oce, distal opening of canalis extensorius; pet, proximal attachment for
retinaculum extensorium tibiotarsi; pst, pons supratendineus; smf, sulcus
musculi fibularis; tct, trochlea cartilaginis tibialis; tub, tuberosity. Speci-
men whitened with ammonium chloride.
incisura intercondylaris is wide with a well developed impressio
ligamenti intercondylaris, located distal to the distal exit of the
canalis extensorius. Viewed distally, the trochlea cartilaginis
tibialis is shallow with poorly developed cristae trochleae.
FIGURE 4. Pelagornis sp., NMV P161759, ?humerus fragment A,in
cranial view. NMV P231787, ?humerus fragment, B, in cranial view; C,
in cross-section.
Comparisons—Museum Victoria specimen (NMV) P218277
was compared with the tibiotarsi of representative members of
9 other neornithine families. These were the Anatidae (ducks,
geese, swans), Ciconiidae (storks), Diomedeidae (albatrosses),
Gruidae (cranes), Pelecanidae (pelicans), Phalacrocoracidae
(cormorants, shags), Phoenicopteridae (flamingos), Procellari-
idae (petrels, shearwaters), and the Sulidae (gannets, boobies).
These families were selected on the basis of the size, lifestyle, or
potential phylogenetic relationship to the Pelagornithidae. In ad-
dition to the combination of characters unique to pelagornithids
(see Diagnosis, above), NMV P218277 differs from tibiotarsi
of all members of these families by having (1) a deep fossa ex-
tensoria and (2) a proximal attachment site for the retinaculum
extensorium tibiotarsi located at the distomedial corner of the
fossa extensoria. Moreover, NMV P218277 is relatively larger
and exhibits extremely thin cortex, consistent with morphology
in other pelagornithids.
Ciconiid, phoenicopterid, and gruid tibiotarsi differ from
NMV P218277 by having a well-developed epicondylaris later-
alis, a deep depressio epicondylaris lateralis, a horizontal pons
supratendineus, a large tuberosity lateral to the distal opening
of the canalis extensorius, a condylus lateralis that extends
caudal to the caudal edge of shaft, and a distal attachment of the
retinaculum extensorium tibiotarsi in the form of a proximodistal
ridge. Pelecanid and sulid tibiotarsi differ from NMV P218277 by
having a well-developed epicondylaris lateralis and an incisura
intercondylaris with the impressio ligamenti intercondylaris
located further distally. Procellariid and diomedeid tibiotarsi
differ from NMV P218277 by having a well-developed epicondy-
laris lateralis and a horizontal pons supratendineus. Ciconiid
and anatid tibiotarsi differ from NMV P218277 by having a
triangular distal opening of the canalis extensorius. Pelecanid
and anatid tibiotarsi differ from NMV P218277 by having a distal
attachment of the retinaculum extensorium tibiotarsi in the
form of a proximodistally elongated scar. Anatid tibiotarsi differ
from NMV P218277 by having a horizontal pons supratendineus
TABLE 1. Dimensions of Pelagornis sp. ?humeral fragments (in mm).
Specimen
Maximum
proximodistal length
Maximum
transverse length
Compacta
thickness
NMV P161759 150.70 38.08 1.50–2.00
NMV P231787 60.24 33.81 1.00–2.00
NMV P231788 53.16 57.16 1.50–2.00
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974 JOURNAL OF VERTEBRATE PALEONTOLOGY, VOL. 32, NO. 4, 2012
and a poorly developed impressio ligamenti intercondylaris.
Diomedeid tibiotarsi differ from NMV P218277 by having a
well-developed epicondylaris. Gruid tibiotarsi differ from NMV
P218277 by having a tuberositas retinaculi musculi fibularis in
the form of a proximodistal ridge. Pelecanid tibiotarsi differ
from NMV P218277 by having a proximodistally oriented sulcus
musculi fibularis. Phalacrocoracid tibiotarsi differ from NMV
P218277 by having a condylus lateralis that extends caudal to
the caudal edge of shaft, a salient lateral border of the sulcus
extensorius, and a sulcus musculi fibularis that is located more
proximally, lateral to the sulcus extensorius. Procellariid tibio-
tarsi differ from NMV P218277 by having a poorly developed
tuberositas retinaculi musculi fibularis and a proximal attach-
ment for the retinaculum extensorium tibiotarsi in the form of a
proximodistal ridge. Sulid tibiotarsi differ from NMV P218277 by
having a deep depressio epicondylaris lateralis and pronounced
lateral and medial borders of the sulcus extensorius.
DISCUSSION
Cenozoic fossil marine birds of Australia are poorly known,
which probably reflects a lack of research more than a lack of
fossils (Nguyen et al., 2011). Until now, the reported Cenozoic
marine avifauna of Australia has consisted of Eocene–Pliocene
penguins from various localities (Fitzgerald, 2004; Ksepka and
Clarke, 2010) and an extinct albatross, Diomedea thyridata
Wilkinson, 1969, from the Beaumaris Local Fauna (Wilkinson,
1969). The Beaumaris Local Fauna is noteworthy for including
rare terrestrial marsupial fossils, attesting to its nearshore depo-
sitional setting (Fitzgerald, 2004; Piper et al., 2006). The conti-
nental record of Pelagornithidae described herein emphasizes the
infancy of this field of study in Australia and the fundamental
work remaining to be done. Nonetheless, the presence of pelagor-
nithids (and the genus Pelagornis) in the late Neogene of south-
east Australia is perhaps not surprising given the occurrence of
these taxa in penecontemporaneous fossil assemblages of New
Zealand and elsewhere on the margins of the Pacific Basin (Mayr
and Rubilar-Rogers, 2010). The co-occurrence of Pelagornis and
Diomedea in the Beaumaris Local Fauna hints at the sympatry of
these long-distance soarers. Together with other, as yet unstud-
ied, fossil marine birds from Beaumaris, the discovery of Pelagor-
nis signals more detailed insights into the composition and evolu-
tion of the Neogene marine avifauna of Australia.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
We thank D. Pickering, W. Longmore, and K. Roberts for ac-
cess to collections; D. Pickering for skilful preparation of NMV
P218277; E. Bourdon and G. Mayr for provision of materials; P.
O’Connor for editorial comments; and two referees for their con-
structive comments. E.M.G.F. was supported by Museum Victo-
ria and the Harold Mitchell Foundation.
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... supratendineus ( Fig. 3.4). The sulcus extensorius is wide as in other Pelagornithidae, but unlike P. chilensis (Fig. 3.5) and an unnamed pelagornithid from the late Miocene/early Pliocene of Australia (Fitzgerald et al., 2012, fig. 3A), LACM 128424 lacks a marked and deeply excavated fossa extensoria (sensu Fitzgerald et al., 2012). ...
... The sulcus extensorius is wide as in other Pelagornithidae, but unlike P. chilensis (Fig. 3.5) and an unnamed pelagornithid from the late Miocene/early Pliocene of Australia (Fitzgerald et al., 2012, fig. 3A), LACM 128424 lacks a marked and deeply excavated fossa extensoria (sensu Fitzgerald et al., 2012). ...
... The two internal nodes are supported by the following derived features (see text for further details). 1, humerus with ventral portion of proximal end narrow and tuberculum dorsale strongly projected; ulna with very short olecranon; 2, femur, trochlea fibularis without sulcus (unknown for the Australian pelagornithid reported by Fitzgerald et al., 2012, the tibiotarsus of which does, however, closely resemble that of Pelagornis chilensis). The temporal distribution is indicated by black squares/bars. ...
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... Phylogenetic studies have shown that these highly specialized soaring birds are not part of the neoavian radiation (Bourdon 2005;Mayr 2011;Mayr et al. 2019). Pelagornithids had a worldwide distribution and occur in late Paleocene to late Pliocene marine deposits (Harrison 1985;Averianov et al. 1991;Mourer-Chauviré & Geraads 2008;Bourdon et al. 2010;Mayr & Rubilar-Rogers 2010;Boessenecker & Smith 2011;Fitzgerald et al. 2012;Cenizo et al. 2015;Mayr et al. 2019). Pseudo-toothed birds have an extensive stratigraphic range in Africa. ...
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ABSTRACT In the Sahara Desert of southwestern Morocco, the Aridal Formation of Gueran is known for the world’s richest Bartonian archaic whale assemblage, which includes both protocetids and basilosaurids.Gueran has also yielded another rich and diverse vertebrate fauna described in detail herein —The chondrichthyan assemblage of twelve species is quite similar to that of the Midawara Formation (Egypt). Actinopterygians include iluriformes, Percomorpha and rostra of Cylindracanthus Leidy,1856. Turtles are attributed to at least three indetermined species: two marine cryptodires – a cheloniid and a dermochelyid, and a possible littoral pleurodire, as found in Ad-Dakhla (Morocco) and Fayum (Egypt). Th e crocodylians comprise at least two longirostrine taxa, including a gavialoid that resembles the late Eocene-early Oligocene Eogavialis africanum Andrews, 1901 from Egypt. The second form is too fragmentary to be identifi ed more precisely than Crocodyliformes indet. Two snake vertebrae belong to Pterosphenus cf. schweinfurthi Andrews, 1901. Two other incomplete snake vertebrae probably belong to Paleophiidae as well. Seabird remains belong to a giganticsoaring pseudo-toothed bird (Pelagornithidae) and constitute the earliest occurrence of the genus Pelagornis sp. Lartet, 1857. Th is material extends the fossil record of Pelagornis back in time by at least 10 million years. Based on their size and enamel microstructure, mammal dental fragments are attributed to the proboscidean ?Barytherium sp. Th e Bartonian age of the fauna, initially based on an archaeocete cetacean assemblage, is also supported by chondrichthyans. Affinities of the Gueran faunal assemblage are analyzed in comparison with those from other middle and upper Eocene deposits of North Africa and elsewhere.
... In parallel with their extensive chronostratigraphic distribution, pelagornithids have been recorded from all continents (e.g. Bourdon, Amaghzaz & Bouya, 2010;Mayr & Rubilar-Rogers, 2010;Bourdon, 2011;Fitzgerald, Park & Worthy, 2012;Cenizo, Hospitaleche & Reguero, 2015;). The pseudo-toothed birds include gigantic forms with wingspans above 5 m ( Mayr & Rubilar-Rogers, 2010;Ksepka, 2014). ...
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Late Eocene deposits of the Samlat Formation, south of Ad-Dakhla city, southwestern Morocco, have yielded a mixed marine and terrestrial vertebrate fauna. Abundant and diversified chondrichthyans and archaeocete whales have been found, as well as the remains of sirenians and proboscideans. Here we describe the rest of this fossil assemblage which includes actinopterygians, turtles, palaeophiid snakes, crocodiles and pelagornithid seabirds. Actinopterygians are represented by at least two large-sized taxa, a scombroid probably close to the extant Acanthocybium or to the Eocene Aramichthys , and a siluriform related to the Ariidae. Turtles include at least four species represented by shell fragments. This mixed coastal and continental turtle fauna includes one littoral species of Podocnemididae, one or two deep-sea species of Dermochelyidae and one deep-sea species of Cheloniidae. Another turtle species is assigned to the terrestrial Testudinidae. Fragmentary crocodilian remains indicate the presence of undetermined eusuchians tentatively referred to Gavialidae and/or to Crocodylidae. Snake vertebrae are tentatively attributed to the genus Pterosphenus (Palaeophiidae) pending the discovery of new material. Avian remains belong to a large pseudo-toothed bird (Pelagornithidae). Pseudo-tooth morphology resembles that of the late Oligocene – Neogene genus Pelagornis . Additional bird remains are needed for a more precise taxonomic assignment. The fossil assemblage and palaeoenvironment of the upper Eocene deposits of the Samlat Formation appear closely related to those of the upper Eocene – lower Oligocene deposits of the Fayum (Egypt). The initial overview of this fauna provides an important contribution to the study of vertebrate evolution in North Africa near the Eocene–Oligocene transition.
... This conclusion supports the hypothesis that all the main ratite lineages evolved from flying ancestors which settled on various landmasses or islands and then evolved separately. Some of the largest flying seabirds in existence, for example, the Pelagornis with a seven metre wingspan, also dwelt here in the late Miocene (Fitzgerald et al. 2012). The penguins have their oldest fossil record from New Zealand (Waimanu, 60 Ma, Ando & Fordyce 2006) but Australia was home to a giant 1.5metre high Eocene form, closely resembling Anthropornis from the Antarctic Peninsula, and endemic late Miocene forms like Pseudapentodytes. ...
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The Antarctic pelagornithid record is restricted to few isolated remains from the Eocene of Seymour Island in the Antarctic Peninsula. Here we report the oldest Antarctic pseudo-toothed bird. It is represented by an incomplete humerus lacking its proximal end, which comes from the lower Eocene levels of the La Meseta Formation (Seymour Island). This new specimen facilitates a review of all known pelagornithids from this continent. Antarctic pelagornithids were classified into two morphotypes that exhibit a mix of putative plesiomorphic and derived characters. Considering the worldwide pelagornithid record and according to estimated wingspans, four approximate size-types were identified. The oldest Antarctic specimens (two fragmentary humeri, middle Ypresian) were assigned to morphotype 1 and correspond to the large size-type. The younger materials (Bartonian/?Priabonian) here assigned to morphotype 2 (some cranial remains, fragmentary tarsometatarsus and humerus) correspond to the giant size-type and represent one of the largest known pseudo-toothed birds. Even though species level phylogenetic affinities of Pelagornithidae remain poorly resolved, three key evolutionary events can be recognized: (1) the disappearance of Dasornis in the Early Eocene and the appearance of more advanced forms with a trend to the specialization of large soaring capacity, (2) the origin of Pelagornis sensu lato species in the early Oligocene, and (3) the appearance and dominance of a highly specialized terminal group at Mio/Pliocene time span.
... However, the unclear provenance of some species, such as P. longirostris (Spulski, 1910;Mayr and Rubilar-Rogers, 2010) renders difficult explicit designation of the chronostratigraphic range of the genus. With the exception of the Antarctic continent, Pelagornis had a cosmopolitan distribution during the Oligocene and Neogene, including localities in North, Central, and South America (Olson, 1985;Rinc on and Stucchi, 2003;Stidham, 2004;Mayr and Rubilar-Rogers, 2010;Boessenecker and Smith, 2011;Mayr et al., 2013;Ksepka, 2014), Europe (Lartet, 1857), Asia (Ono, 1989;Matsuoka et al., 1998), Africa (Mourer-Chauvir e and Geraads, 2008), Australia (Fitzgerald et al., 2012), and New Zealand (Howard, 1957;Scarlett, 1972). The paleoenvironment of the Castillo Formation beds was previously inferred to be a mainly near-shore marine complex (Rinc on et al., 2014); the presence of the giant marine bonytoothed bird cf. ...
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Pelagornithids or bony-toothed birds were an enigmatic group of very large marine birds that existed throughout most of the Tertiary, with remains recovered in all continents. The currently recognized record of pelagornithids in South America extends from the middle Miocene to the Pliocene. Here, a fragment of a ramus mandibulae recently discovered in the Cerro La Cruz site (Castillo Formation, Lara State, northwestern Venezuela), is assigned to Pelagornis. With an early Miocene age (18.27–18.85 Ma), the fossil constitutes the earliest unequivocal record of the group in South America. The reexamination of another pelagornithid specimen recovered from Capadare Formation (middle Miocene), which was previously assigned to Pelagornithidae indeterminate, allows us to recognize the presence during the Miocene of Venezuela of a second pelagornithid morphotype, here tentatively referred to Pelagornis chilensis Mayr and Rubilar-Rogers, 201027. Mayr, G., and D. Rubilar-Rogers. 2010. Osteology of a new giant bony-toothed bird from the Miocene of Chile, with a revision of the taxonomy of Neogene Pelagornithidae. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 30:1313–1330.[Taylor & Francis Online], [Web of Science ®]View all references. Originally recorded from the middle Miocene-early Pliocene of Chile, the possible presence of P. cf. P. chilensis during the middle Miocene of Venezuela might represent the first record of this bony-toothed species outside Chile and expands its distribution area by 3500 km, to the tropical waters of northern South America. Citation for this article: Solorzano, A., and A. D. Rincon. 2015. The earliest record (early Miocene) of a bony-toothed bird from South America and a reexamination of Venezuelan pelagornithids. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. DOI: 10.1080/02724634.2014.995188.
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In the Sahara Desert of southwestern Morocco, the Aridal Formation of Gueran is known for the world’s richest Bartonian archaic whale assemblage, which includes both protocetids and basilosaurids. Gueran has also yielded another rich and diverse vertebrate fauna described in detail herein —The chondrichthyan assemblage of twelve species is quite similar to that of the Midawara Formation (Egypt). Actinopterygians include Siluriformes, Percomorpha and rostra of Cylindracanthus Leidy, 1856. Turtles are attributed to at least three indetermined species: two marine cryptodires – a cheloniid and a dermochelyid, and a possible littoral pleurodire, as found in Ad-Dakhla (Morocco) and Fayum (Egypt). The crocodylians comprise at least two longirostrine taxa, including a gavialoid that resembles the late Eocene-early Oligocene Eogavialis africanum Andrews, 1901 from Egypt. The second form is too fragmentary to be identified more precisely than Crocodyliformes indet. Two snake vertebrae belong to Pterosphenus cf. schweinfurthi Andrews, 1901. Two other incomplete snake vertebrae probably belong to Paleophiidae as well. Seabird remains belong to a gigantic soaring pseudo-toothed bird (Pelagornithidae) and constitute the earliest occurrence of the genus Pelagornis sp. Lartet, 1857. This material extends the fossil record of Pelagornis back in time by at least 10 million years. Based on their size and enamel microstructure, mammal dental fragments are attributed to the proboscidean ?Barytherium sp. The Bartonian age of the fauna, initially based on an archaeocete cetacean assemblage, is also supported by chondrichthyans. Affinities of the Gueran faunal assemblage are analyzed in comparison with those from other middle and upper Eocene deposits of North Africa and elsewhere.
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While pelagornithid or ‘bony-toothed’ bird fossils representing multiple species are known from Antarctica, a new dentary fragment of a pelagornithid bird from the middle Eocene Submeseta Formation on Seymour Island, Antarctica represents a species with a body size on par with the largest known species in the clade. Measurements from the partial ‘toothed’ dentary point to a giant body size for the species, although the spacing among the pseudoteeth difers from that published for other pelagornithids. The discrepancy might suggest that previous techniques are not adequate for examination of incomplete material or that another factor such as phylogeny might impact size estimates and comparisons. Combined with a revised stratigraphic position in the early Eocene La Meseta Formation on Seymour Island for the largest pelagornithid tarsometatarsus known, these Antarctic fossils demonstrate the early evolution of giant body size in the clade (by~ 50 Ma), and they likely represent not only the largest fying birds of the Eocene but also some of the largest volant birds that ever lived (with an estimated 5–6 m wingspan). Furthermore, the distribution of giantsized pelagornithid fossils across more than 10 million years of Antarctic geological deposits points to a prolonged survival of giant-sized pelagornithids within the southern seas, and their success as a pelagic predatory component of marine and coastal ecosystems alongside early penguins.
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We describe here new specimens of pseudotoothed birds (Odontopterygiformes) from the Upper Paleocene and Lower Eocene of the Ouled Abdoun Basin, Morocco. These Lower Paleogene fossils are among the oldest representatives of the Odontopterygiformes and include braincases, beak fragments, and long bones. Dasornis toliapica (Owen, 1873) (2–3 m wingspan) and Dasornis emuinus (Bowerbank, 1854) (3.5–4.5 m wingspan) were initially described from the Lower Eocene London Clay of Sheppey, England. The new species Dasornis abdoun (1.5–1.7 m wingspan) constitutes the smallest species of pseudotoothed bird ever discovered. We partly revise the oversplit taxonomy of the odontopterygiforms: the two species from the Paleogene of England and Morocco are regarded as congeneric, the name Dasornis having priority over the name Odontopteryx. We also synonymize Neptuniavis minor Harrison and Walker, 1977, and Macrodontopteryx oweni Harrison and Walker, 1976, with D. toliapica (Owen, 1873). Moreover, the genera Pelagornis Lartet, 1857, and Osteodontornis Howard, 1957, are regarded as pertaining to one single taxonomic entity that corresponds to the Pelagornis morphotype. In Dasornis, the morphological peculiarities of the humerus that are related to gliding flight are less pronounced than in Pelagornis. The latter taxon includes exceedingly specialized gliders that were most likely unable of sustained flapping flight and relied almost entirely on winds to provide lift. Pseudotoothed birds pertaining to the Dasornis morphotype were more generalists and could probably undertake flapping flight, even if limited. The species of Dasornis were soaring pelagic feeders that could disperse over large territories like extant albatrosses. They formed large breeding colonies near the shore of the northeastern part of the Moroccan phosphate sea, some 55 million years ago. Our work provides evidence that Dasornis was widespread in the early Tertiary, as it is currently known from the Lower Paleogene deposits of Morocco, England, and Kazakhstan. Paleoenvironmental studies show that these marine deposits formed in a tropical climate. This could explain the occurrence of both Dasornis and prophaethontids in all three Paleogene localities.
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The locality of Ahl al Oughlam, situated at the southeastern limit of the city of Casablanca (Morocco) at about 34° north, is dated by the biochronology of its rich mammalian fauna to about 2.5 Ma. At the present time it is 6.5 km from the Atlantic Ocean but it was on the seashore when the fossil material was deposited. Among the seabirds are Phoebastria anglica, Phoebastria sp. cf. P. albatrus, Phoebastria sp. cf. P. nigripes, Pelagornis mauretanicus, Calonectris sp. cf. C. diomedea, Morus peninsularis, Morus sp. cf. M. bassanus, Catharacta sp. cf. C. skua, Alca ausonia. Among the landbirds are Struthio asiaticus, Geronticus olsoni n.sp., several anseriforms, Plioperdix africana n.sp., several otidids, Agapornis atlanticus n.sp., Tyto balearica, T. alba, Surnia robusta, and a few Passeriformes. The Recent species of albatrosses Phoebastria albatrus and P. nigripes live in the North Pacific but were also present in the North Atlantic until the Middle Pleistocene. The marine avifauna shows many similarities with that of the Yorktown Formation, in North Carolina. Unlike the mammals, which include many genera in common with the African faunas, the landbirds have more affinities with the Palaearctic region than with the Ethiopian region. They include several extinct genera or species that have been described, or identified, in the Pliocene of the Palaearctic region. The terrestrial avifauna is very different from all those that have been described from the upper Miocene and Pliocene of Africa.
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Fitzgerald, E.M.G. 2004. A review of the Tertiary fossil Cetacea (Mammalia) localities in Australia. Memoirs of Museum Victoria 61(2): 183-208. The stratigraphy, age, lithology, and vertebrate fauna of all 56 pre-Pleistocene fossil Cetacea-bearing localities in Australia are reviewed. The majority of these localities occur in the state of Victoria, and are Miocene in age. The most complete cetacean fossils have been recovered from coastal exposures of the Upper Oligocene Jan Juc Formation, south- west of Torquay in the Torquay Basin (Victoria). The inadequately known fossil record of cetaceans in Australia is due to a lack of research, and not a lack of potentially fossiliferous rock outcrop.
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Fossils of pelagornithids (bony-toothed birds) have been reported from strata of Paleocene to Pliocene age, and from every continent. The extreme fragility of pelagornithid bones has no doubt contributed to their geographically and temporally sporadic record, and thus it has been difficult to appreciate any long-term phylogenetic trends through geologic time for this group. We report a well-preserved partial humerus of the gigantic bird Pelagornis from the late Neogene Purisima Formation of central California. Due to its incompleteness, we refrain from naming a new species. This fossil is fortuitously bracketed by two ash beds, which have been correlated with volcanic rocks at 3.35 ± 0.05 Ma and 2.5 ± 0.2 Ma, indicating a middle to late Pliocene age for this fossil. This fossil extends the record of the pelagornithids in the Northeast Pacific, previously only known up until the early late Miocene (10–12 Ma). This fossil is the latest record of a pelagornithid for the Pacific Basin, and additionally represents the latest reliably dated pelagornithid record worldwide. This record suggests that the pelagornithids survived until the end of the Pliocene, and became extinct during the ocean restructuring and climatic upheavals that caused the demise of many other groups of marine vertebrates at that time.
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Bony-toothed birds (Pelagornithidae) were among the largest volant birds, but their representatives from the upper size range have so far been known only from very fragmentary fossils. Here we report an exceptionally well-preserved giant species from the late Miocene of the Bahía Inglesa Formation in northern Chile, in which most major limb bones are complete and uncrushed. The fossil has the longest wing skeleton of any bird, and its wingspan in life was at least 5.2 m. Mass estimates of 16–29 kg are, however, surprisingly low and within the range of large extant volant birds, or only moderately above. The fossil constitutes the most substantial record of the Pelagornithidae (bony-toothed birds), and is assigned to a new species, Pelagornis chilensis. It is one of the largest known pelagornithids and the three-dimensionally preserved bones allow recognition of many previously unknown osteological features, especially concerning the vertebrae, pectoral girdle, and limb elements. We revise the taxonomy of Neogene pelagornithids and propose classification of all Miocene and Pliocene species into a single genus, Pelagornis. Osteological features are highlighted in which giant Neogene Pelagornithidae differ from their smaller Palaeogene relatives.
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Twenty-two terrestrial and over 20 marine mammal faunas are currently recognized in the fossil record of Victoria, representing one of the most complete records of mammal evolution in Australia. Although the earliest recorded terrestrial mammals come from the Early Cretaceous, the majority of the faunas are concentrated in the Pliocene and Pleistocene, whereas the marine mammal record spans the Late Oligocene–Holocene. Despite the generally fragmentary nature of the fossil remains, many of the faunas are diverse and offer insights into the changes in palaeoecology and palaeoenvironmental conditions of the region over time. The terrestrial mammal faunas follow the global trend with the appearance of more arid-adapted species in the late Pliocene; however, a number of Pliocene–Pleistocene coastal sites indicate the continued presence of wet forest refugia, with several relict species occurring in the Early Pleistocene. Most of the faunas are well dated, providing a basis for the production of a biostratigraphic framework, essential for the more accurate dating of mammals in Australia. Two new diverse mammal sites, Childers Cove and Portland, are a welcome addition to the Pliocene records of both terrestrial and marine mammals. Marine mammal research is only in its early stages, but the Victorian record is fundamental in understanding the evolution of cetaceans in the southern oceans. The known diversity of species has increased substantially as a result of recent research. Some well-preserved specimens, including complete skulls, have implications for cetacean systematics, including basal mysticetes. However, much more work needs to be focused on the cataloguing, preparation, description and interpretation of the faunas to take full advantage of this excellent record.