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Avian Evolution: The Fossil Record of Birds and its Paleobiological Significance

ISBN: 978-1-119-02076-9
312 pages
October 2016, Wiley-Blackwell
Avian Evolution: The Fossil Record of Birds and its Paleobiological Significance (111902076X) cover image

Description

Knowledge of the evolutionary history of birds has much improved in recent decades. Fossils from critical time periods are being described at unprecedented rates and modern phylogenetic analyses have provided a framework for the interrelationships of the extant groups. This book gives an overview of the avian fossil record and its paleobiological significance, and it is the only up-to-date textbook that covers both Mesozoic and more modern-type Cenozoic birds in some detail. The reader is introduced to key features of basal avians and the morphological transformations that have occurred in the evolution towards modern birds. An account of the Cenozoic fossil record sheds light on the biogeographic history of the extant avian groups and discusses fossils in the context of current phylogenetic hypotheses. This review of the evolutionary history of birds not only addresses students and established researchers, but it may also be a useful source of information for anyone else with an interest in the evolution of birds and a moderate background in biology and geology.

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Table of Contents

FOREWORD

PREFACE

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

1. AN INTRODUCTION INTO BIRDS, THE GEOLOGICAL SETTINGS OF THEIR EVOLUTION, AND THE AVIAN SKELETON 4

Birds are evolutionary nested within theropod dinosaurs 4

The geological settings of avian evolution in a nutshell 6

Characteristics of the avian skeleton 7

2. THE ORIGIN OF BIRDS 13

Archaeopteryx: The German “urvogel” and its bearing on avian evolution 13

The closest maniraptoran relatives of birds 15

Feather evolution 21

The origin of avian flight 25

3. THE MESOZOIC FLIGHT WAY TOWARDS MODERN BIRDS 29

Jeholornithids: Early Cretaceous long-tailed birds 30

Confuciusornis, Sapeornis, and kin: Basal birds with a pygostyle 31

Ornithothoraces and the origin of sustained flapping flight capabilities 34

The Ornithuromorpha: Refinement of modern characteristics 37

Ornithurae and the origin of modern birds 40

4. MESOZOIC BIRDS: INTERRELATIONSHIPS AND CHARACTER EVOLUTION 43

The interrelationships of Mesozoic birds – controversial phylogenetic placements and well-supported clades 43

Character evolution in Mesozoic birds 45

Ontogenetic development of Mesozoic birds 53

5. THE INTERRELATIONSHIPS AND ORIGIN OF CROWN GROUP BIRDS (NEORNITHES) 55

Phylogenetic interrelationships of neornithine birds 56

The Mesozoic fossil record of neornithine-like and neornithine birds 58

6. PALAEOGNATHOUS BIRDS (OSTRICHES, TINAMOUS, AND ALLIES) 61

The interrelationships of extant Palaeognathae 62

Early Cenozoic palaeognathous birds of the Northern Hemisphere 63

The long-winged ostriches, rheas, and tinamous 64

The short-winged palaeognathous birds 67

Biogeography: A textbook example of Gondwanan vicariance has become dismantled 70

7. GALLOANSERES: “FOWL” AND KIN 71

Galliformes – from herbivorous forest dwellers to seed eaters of open landscapes 72

The waterfowl 75

Gastornithids: Giant herbivorous birds in the early Paleogene of the Northern Hemisphere 79

Dromornithids (mihirungs or thunderbirds): Gastornis-like birds from Australia 80

Pelagornithids: The bony-toothed birds 81

8. THE “DIFFICULT-TO-PLACE GROUPS”: BIOGEOGRAPHIC SURPRISES AND AERIAL SPECIALISTS 83

The columbiform birds: Doves, sandgrouse, … and mesites? 84

The Hoatzin – a South American relict species 85

Turacos and cuckoos 86

Bustards 87

The “wonderful” Mirandornithes, or how different can sister taxa be? 88

Strisores: The early diversification of nocturnal avian insectivores 91

9. SHOREBIRDS, CRANES, AND RELATIVES 97

Charadriiformes: One of the most diverse groups of extant birds 97

From rail to crane 103

10. AEQUORNITHES: AQUATIC AND SEMI-AQUATIC CARNIVORES 107

Loons: Foot-propelled divers of the Northern Hemisphere 107

The pelagic tubenoses and albatrosses 108

Penguins: More than 60 million years of flightlessness 111

The polyphyletic “Pelecaniformes” and “Ciconiiformes” 115

Late Cenozoic turnovers in marine avifaunas 125

11. CARIAMIFORMS AND DIURNAL BIRDS OF PREY 126

Seriemas and allies: Two species now, a lot more in the past 127

Diurnal birds of prey: Multiple cases of convergence among raptorial birds 131

12. THE CENOZOIC RADIATION OF SMALL ARBOREAL BIRDS 137

The Courol and mousebirds: Two African relict groups 137

The long evolutionary history of owls 140

Parrots and passerines: An unexpected sister group relationship and its potential evolutionary implications 142

Trogons, rollers, and woodpeckers: Cavity-nesters with diverse foot morphologies 148

13. INSULAR AVIFAUNAS NOW AND THEN, ON VARIOUS SCALES 153

Islands and isolated continents as refugia 154

The evolution of flightlessness in predator-free environments 155

Insular gigantism and islands as cradles of unusual morphologies 160

GLOSSARY 163

REFERENCES 165

INDEX

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