A well-preserved ‘charadriiform-like’ fossil bird from the Early Eocene Fur Formation of Denmark



Abstract:  We describe a new, exceptionally well-preserved fossil bird recovered from marine deposits of the Early Eocene Fur Formation of Denmark. Morsoravis sedilis gen. et sp. nov. is known by a single specimen that consists of a three-dimensional skull, vertebral column, ribs, pelvis, and left hindlimb and associated parts of the right hindlimb. Comparisons based on overall morphology and particularly characters of the skull, vertebrae and pelvis indicate that the new specimen is morphologically similar to charadriiform birds (the shorebirds and relatives). This similarity is also expressed by a phylogenetic analysis of higher neornithine (modern birds) taxa, which supports a close relationship between the new fossil and modern charadriiforms. The morphology of the hindlimbs, in particular, shows that the new fossil corresponds to a new taxon that is distinguishable from modern charadriiform clades. One interesting aspect of its morphology is the presence of hindlimb specializations that are most commonly found among perching birds – these suggest that ecologically the new Danish fossil bird may have differed from the wading habits typical of most charadriiforms.