Cathayornis yandica Fossil Bird from Liaoning

Cathayornis yandica

Phylum: Chordata; Class: Aves; Subclass: Enantiornithes

Geological Time: Cretaceous

Size: 96 mm long (top of skull to tip of toes), 52 mm across at wings

Fossil Site: Jiufotang Formation, Chaoyang, Liaoning Province of China

Cathayornis yandica Early Cretaceous birds from the lacustrine deposits of Western Liaoning Province are well known for their exceptional diversity, abundance, and degree of preservation. This one is the Enanthiorinine Cathayornis yandica. The Enantiornithine birds at one time were the dominant group of birds during the Cretaceous, only to go the way of the dinosaurs by the end of the period. Their name is derived in the meaning “opposite birds” due to a reverse articular arrangement between the scapula and the coracoid from the typical birds of today. The fusion of the foot bones is also opposite from modern birds. Cathayornis derives its genus name from the word Cathay, an ancient term for China. Paul Sereno, et. al. have synonymized this one with Sinornis, but not all researchers agree. Cathayornis (or Sinornis) is one of the few early Cretaceous birds known from over a dozen nearly complete examples. This one is quite well preserved, with an intact skull. While they are known to be toothed, the teeth are not readily apparent here. The wing claws are visible, particularly in the left wing.

Walker, C. A. (1981): New subclass of birds from the Cretaceous of South America. Nature 292

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