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Keywords:

  • birds;
  • waterbirds;
  • ducks and geese;
  • Paleocene-Eocene;
  • Asia

Abstract

We describe a large collection of fossil ‘waterfowl’ bones that are referable to the extinct clade Presbyornithidae (Anseriformes). All of these fossils were collected between 1971 and 1994 from Upper Paleocene and Lower Eocene sediments at the Tsagaan Khushuu site in the Gobi Desert of southern Mongolia. The collection includes specimens referred to a new small species within the genus Presbyornis Wetmore, 1926 as well as large numbers of bones that we place in the genus Presbyornis. On this basis of the Tsagaan Khushuu collection we suggest that several species of Presbyornis likely coexisted in this region; indeed, the presence of large numbers of middle-sized, morphologically consistent but probably ecologically disparate species at the Tsagaan Khushuu site is consistent with the range of variation seen, for example, in taxa of extant dabbling ducks (Anatini). Although the anatomy and phylogenetic position of Presbyornithidae (in particular Presbyornis) are well known, this material from Mongolia further demonstrates the prevalence of these birds in aquatic and semi-aquatic habitats by the earliest Paleogene. Because presbyornithids are also well documented from the late Cretaceous, their palaeoecology and morphological diversity provides a clue to selective avian survivorship across the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) boundary. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.