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You are here: Home / Library / RBINS Staff Publications 2019 / Paleocene and Eocene bird assemblage from the Southern North Sea Basin

Thierry Smith and Gerald Mayr (2019)

Paleocene and Eocene bird assemblage from the Southern North Sea Basin

In: SVP 2019 Annual Meeting - October 9-12, Brisbane, Australia, vol. Meeting Program, pp. 194-195, Society of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Numerous bird bones from the Paleocene and early Eocene of the Belgian and Paris basins have been collected by amateur paleontologists. Four bones from the early-middle Selandian of Maret, Belgium are among the earliest Cenozoic avian remains from Europe and include the oldest temporally well constrained records of the Gastornithidae, as well as tentative records of the paleognathous Lithornithidae and the Ralloidea. Another assemblage from the middle Thanetian of Templeuve, France contains multiple bones of the Lithornithidae as well as a record of the Pelagornithidae. Specimens from the latest Thanetian of Rivecourt-Petit Pâtis, France are tentatively assigned to the Ralloidea and Leptosomiformes. An assemblage of 54 bones from the middle Ypresian of Egem, Belgium represents at least 20 species in more than 11 higher-level taxa. Well-identifiable specimens are assigned to the Odontopterygiformes, Galliformes, Messelornithidae, Apodiformes, Halcyornithidae, Leptosomiformes, and Coraciiformes. Further specimens are tentatively referred to the phaethontiform Prophaethontidae and to the Accipitridae, Masillaraptoridae, and Alcediniformes. These three-dimensionally preserved fossils provide new data on the osteology of taxa that are otherwise mainly known from compression fossils with crushed bones. They also further knowledge of the composition of early Paleogene avifaunas of the North Sea Basin. Paleocene avifaunas of Europe and North America appear to have had different compositions and only a few taxa, such as the paleognathous Lithornithidae, are known from both continents. This suggests that the very similar early Eocene avifaunas of Europe and North America are the result of early Cenozoic dispersal events. The well-represented small galliform species from Egem most closely resembles Argillipes aurorum, an ignored galliform species from the London Clay. The tentatively identified fossils of Accipitridae and Alcediniformes would represent the earliest fossil records of these clades. The birds from Egem include few seabirds (Odontopterygiformes, cf. Prophaethontidae) and is dominated by terrestrial species (Galliformes, Messelornithidae). Arboreal birds (Halcyornithidae, Leptosomiformes, cf. Alcediniformes, Coraciiformes) are less abundant and aerial insectivores (Apodiformes) very scarce, which either indicates a taphonomic bias in the composition of the avifauna or particular paleoenvironmental characteristics of the nearshore habitats in that area of the southern North Sea Basin. Grant Information: Funded by Belgian Science Policy Office (project BR/121/A3/PalEurAfrica).
RBINS Collection(s), Impact Factor, Abstract of an Oral Presentation or a Poster, Peer Review, International Redaction Board