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Open AccessArticle

New Material of Paleocene-Eocene Pellornis (Aves: Gruiformes) Clarifies the Pattern and Timing of the Extant Gruiform Radiation

1
Department of Geological Sciences, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, USA
2
Bruce Museum, Greenwich, CT 06830, USA
3
Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, CB2 3EQ, UK
*
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Diversity 2019, 11(7), 102; https://doi.org/10.3390/d11070102
Received: 10 May 2019 / Revised: 25 June 2019 / Accepted: 26 June 2019 / Published: 28 June 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Origins of Modern Avian Biodiversity)
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Abstract

Pellornis mikkelseni is an early gruiform from the latest Paleocene-earliest Eocene Fur Formation of Denmark. At approximately 54 million years old, it is among the earliest clear records of the Gruiformes. The holotype specimen, and only material thus far recognised, was originally considered to comprise a partial postcranial skeleton. However, additional mechanical preparation of the nodule containing the holotype revealed that the skeleton is nearly complete and includes a well-preserved skull. In addition to extracting new information from the holotype, we identify and describe two additional specimens of P. mikkelseni which reveal further morphological details of the skeleton. Together, these specimens show that P. mikkelseni possessed a schizorhinal skull and shared many features with the well-known Paleogene Messelornithidae (“Messel rails”). To reassess the phylogenetic position of P. mikkelseni, we modified an existing morphological dataset by adding 20 characters, four extant gruiform taxa, six extinct gruiform taxa, and novel scorings based on the holotype and referred specimens. Phylogenetic analyses recover a clade containing P. mikkelseni, Messelornis, Songzia and crown Ralloidea, supporting P. mikkelseni as a crown gruiform. The phylogenetic position of P. mikkelseni illustrates that some recent divergence time analyses have underestimated the age of crown Gruiformes. Our results suggest a Paleocene origin for this important clade, bolstering evidence for a rapid early radiation of Neoaves following the end-Cretaceous mass extinction. View Full-Text
Keywords: avian phylogeny; Neoaves; Gruiformes; evolution; morphology; divergence time estimation; biogeography; diversification avian phylogeny; Neoaves; Gruiformes; evolution; morphology; divergence time estimation; biogeography; diversification
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Musser, G.; Ksepka, D.T.; Field, D.J. New Material of Paleocene-Eocene Pellornis (Aves: Gruiformes) Clarifies the Pattern and Timing of the Extant Gruiform Radiation. Diversity 2019, 11, 102.

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