Jeholornis prima fossil bird
The "early-bird" that ate seeds,
Jeholornis primain
from the Cretaceous
of China

Uncle Darwin's Desktop

China has yielded yet another amazing primitive bird fossil. This one, named Jeholornis primain (or Jeholoornis Primain) comes from the Jiufotang Formation of north-eastern China, an area that has yielded many other fossil bird treasures, as well as feathered dinosaurs. Appearing in the July 25 2002 issue of Nature, Zhou and Zhang state that this Lower Cretaceous bird has a long tail resembling that of dromaeosaurid dinosaurs. Typical of many fossils from the Chinese Laggerstatten, the exquisite preservation includes 50 plant ovules in the stomach that is the earliest direct evidence of seed eating in a bird. Additionally, while only slightly more developed than Archaeopteryx, Jeholornis prima exhibits a skeletal structure well adapted for powerful flight.

Zhou, Z. & Zhang, F. A long-tailed, seed-eating bird from the Early Cretaceous of China. Nature, 418, 405 - 409, (2002). [PubMed: PMID: 12140555 - in process]