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A lower jaw from a Cretaceous parrot

Abstract

All known Cretaceous bird fossils representing modern higher taxa are from the aquatic groups Anseriformes1,3, Gaviiformes4,5, Procellariiformes1 and Charadriiformes1,6. Here I describe a toothless avian dentary symphysis (fused jawbone) from the latest Cretaceous of Wyoming, United States. This symphysis appears to represent the oldest known parrot and is, to my knowledge, the first known fossil of a ‘terrestrial’ modern bird group from the Cretaceous. The existence of this fossil supports the hypothesis, based on molecular divergence data7,8, that most or all of the major modern bird groups were present in the Cretaceous.

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Figure 1: Mandibular symphysis of the Lance Formation parrot (University of California Museum of Paleontology, specimen UCMP 143274).
Figure 2: X-rays of the dorsoventral view of the Lance Formation parrot mandibular symphysis.

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Stidham, T. A lower jaw from a Cretaceous parrot. Nature 396, 29–30 (1998). https://doi.org/10.1038/23841

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