Shenqiornis: Reconstructing a Mesozoic bird skull

O’Connor and Chiappe 2011
traced (Fig. 1) and reconstructed (Fig. 2) the skull of the enantiornithine bird Shenqiornis mengi (Early Cretaceous; Wang et al. 2010; DNHM D2950-2951). This is one of the few enantiornithines with substantial skull material.

Figure 1. O'Connor et al. traced Sheqiornis like this.

Figure 1. O’Connor and Chiappe 2011 traced Shenqiornis like this.

O’Connor and Chiappe used freehand techniques
to reconstruct Shenqiornis (Fig. 2). This is almost never a good idea as assumptions and biases tend to flavor freehand reconstructions.

Figure 2. O'Connor et al. reconstructed the skull of Sheqiornis freehand.

Figure 2. O’Connor and Chiappe 2011 reconstructed the skull of Sheqiornis freehand. Missing parts are in gray, though they seem to give this bird an antorbital fossa that I don’t see and sister taxa do not have. Scale bar = 1cm.

Long time readers know, it is far better to use the DGS method
(Fig. 3) and simply transfer precisely traced shapes to the reconstruction without bias or forethought. It also permits others to see exactly what you saw in a scattered, crushed fossil.

Figure 3. The skull of Sheqiornis traced and reconstructed using DGS methods.

Figure 3. The skull of Shenqiornis traced and reconstructed using DGS methods. Compare to fig. 1 and 2. Here more bones were identified and more precisely reconstructed. Scale bar = 1 cm.

Given this data,
Sheqiornis nests with Pengornis (Fig. 4) in the large reptile tree (LRT, 1703+ taxa) based on skull traits alone.

Figure 3. Pengornis reconstructed not from tracing, but from cutting out the bones and putting them back together. Color tracing is used only for the skull elements. This holotype specimen does not have the same morphology or proportions that Chiappeavis has and it nests within the Enantiornithes.

Figure 4. Pengornis reconstructed not from tracing, but from cutting out the bones and putting them back together. Color tracing is used only for the skull elements. This holotype specimen does not have the same morphology or proportions that Chiappeavis has and it nests within the Enantiornithes.

If you think things here have been a little strange
over the last 3 weeks, you’re right. My large aging computer zapped out. Meanwhile I was able to handle posts using a small MacBook Pro, but was not able to get to my Adobe graphics software for DGS tracing and reconstructing. I was likewise unable to update the LRT. Things are back to normal now (see Fig. 3 above), so we continue!


References
O’Connor JK and Chiappe LM 2011. A revision of enantiornithine (Aves: Ornithothoraces) skull morphology. Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, 9:1, 135-157, DOI: 10.1080/14772019.2010.526639
Wang X, O’Connor J, Zhao B, Chiappe LM, Gao C and Cheng X 2010. New species of Enantiornithes (Aves: Ornithothoraces) from the Qiaotou Formation in Northern Hebei, China. Acta Geologica Sinica, 84(2):247-256.

wiki/Shenqiornis

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