Early Evolution of Avian Flight and Perching: New Evidence from the Lower Cretaceous of China

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Science  14 Feb 1992:
Vol. 255, Issue 5046, pp. 845-848
DOI: 10.1126/science.255.5046.845


Fossil bird skeletons discovered in Lower Cretaceous lake deposits in China shed new light on the early evolution of avian flight and perching. The 135 million-year-old sparrow-sized skeletons represent a new avian, Sinornis santensis, n. gen. n. sp., that preserves striking primitive features such as a flexible manus with unguals, a footed pubis, and stomach ribs (gastralia). In contrast to Archaeoperyx, however, Sinornis exhibits advanced features such as a broad sternum, wing-folding mechanism, pygostyle, and large fully reversed hallux. Modern avian flight function and perching capability, therefore, must have evolved in small-bodied birds in inland habitats not long after Archaeopteryx.

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