(Houde 1988; Early Eocene) was originally considered a northern hemisphere ancestor to ratites (like the ostrich, Struthio). Today primitive flightless birds are chiefly restricted to the southern hemisphere. But note #11 below.
it could be that early birds did start in the South at the K-T boundary, finding refuge near the antipodes from the Yucatan crater site (like China), and had migrated back around the world and back to the North during the Paleocene (66–56 mya). We looked at the record of Paleocene birds earlier here, (Fig. 1) but we didn’t talk about what sort of birds these were. Here they are again with a few more details.
- Waimanu – New Zealand sphenisciform close to penguins
- Australornis – New Zealand precursor to living sea bird families
- Qianshanornis – China cariamiform close to Cariama
- Qinornis – China closer to Mesozoic birds (divisions still visible in the metatarsus)
- Lithornis – N. America lithornithiform close to Pseudocrypturus
- Ogygoptynx – N. America strigiform (owl)
- Novacaesareala – N. America procellariform? (sea bird) close to Torotix
- Fissuravis – Europe lithornithiform close to Pseudocrypturus
- Berruornis – Europe strigiform close to Bubo, the owl
- Gastornis – Europe giant anseriform (LRT nests it with the herbivore hoatzin, Opisthocomus)
- Remiornis – Europe ratite close to Rhea
- Lithoptila – N. Africa prophaethontid (sea bird) close to Phaethon
- Paleopsilopterus – S. America giant cariamiform close to Phorusrhacos
- Itaboravis – S. America cariamiform close to Cariama
- Diogenornis – S. America ratite close to Rhea
- This list is not complete
Ornithologists generally agree
that most major bird families diversified or were present in the Paleocene. Given the variety of birds already known, though scarce, this appears to be valid.
Since ratites are basal to extant birds,
and Pseudocrypturus is basal to ratites (paleognaths), Pseudocrypturus may be similar to the ancestor of all extant birds, perhaps a ‘living fossil’ in the early Eocene. Given its basal position in the LRT, perhaps something very much like it was one of the few survivors of the K-T extinction event.
that Pseudocrypturus had long legs. Early ducks, like Presbyornis, and basal raptors, like Sagittarius, also had long legs. Evidence appears to be building that this was the primitive condition for the clade of living birds.
In the large reptile tree
(LRT, 1059 taxa) Pseudocrypturus nests where Houde 1986 nested it.
Good to again confirm
earlier nestings. Not sure how many or which birds to consider next.
Houde PW 1986. Ostrich ancestors found in the northern hemisphere suggest new hypothesis of ratite origins. Nature 324:563–565.
Houde PW 1988. Paleognathus birds from the early Tertiary of the northern hemisphere. Publications of the Nuttall Ornithological Club 22. 147 pp.