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A new specimen of large-bodied basal Enantiornithine Bohaiornis from the Early Cretaceous of China and the inference of feeding ecology in Mesozoic birds

  • Zhiheng Li (a1), Zhonghe Zhou (a2), Min Wang (a2) and Julia A. Clarke (a1)

A new specimen of Bohaiornis guoi from the Jiufotang Formation, comprising a nearly complete skeleton, sheds light on enantiornithine morphological variation and ecological specialization. The new specimen was collected from near Lamadong Village in Liaoning Province, which is the same area where the sub-adult holotype specimen was reported. It provides new information on the cranial and pectoral girdle anatomy of the species, e.g., broad nasal, strikingly robust acromion, medially curved acrocoracoid process. In contrast to the holotype, the newly referred specimen has small rounded stones in the thoracic region that in other extinct taxa has been interpreted as direct evidence of diet. Direct evidence of diet is so far unknown in other Enantiornithes. Specifically the lack of “stomach stones” or gastroliths in enantiornithines despite their excellent fossil record has been proposed to be related to their insectivorous diet as well as to their arboreal ecology. We hypothesize that cranial morphology as well as the number and shape of the preserved stones in Bohaiornis may be most consistent with a raptorial ecology previously unknown for Enantiornithes and considered rare for Avialae. While rostrum shape has a strong relationship to feeding ecology in living birds, in basal avialan birds most diversity is in dental morphology, number, and distribution of the teeth.

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