A Nestling Bird from the Lower Cretaceous of Spain: Implications for Avian Skull and Neck Evolution

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Science  06 Jun 1997:
Vol. 276, Issue 5318, pp. 1543-1546
DOI: 10.1126/science.276.5318.1543

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A feathered skeleton of a Lower Cretaceous enantiornithine bird from Spain indicates that the modified diapsid skull of modern birds did not evolve until late in their evolution: Basal birds retained an essentially primitive diapsid design. The fossil provides data clarifying long-standing debates on the cranial morphology of the basalmost bird, Archaeopteryx. It also reemphasizes the notion that the early morphological transformations of birds were focused on the flight apparatus. This fossil was a nestling and suggests that early postnatal developments in the Cretaceous enantiornithine birds and those in their extant counterparts are comparable.

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