Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

A lower jaw from a Cretaceous parrot


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.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

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.


  1. Olson, S. L. & Parris, D. Smithson. Contr. Paleobiol. 63, 1–22 (1987).

    Google Scholar 

  2. Elzanowski, A. & Brett-Surman, M. K. Auk 112, 762–767 (1996).

    Google Scholar 

  3. Tambussi, C. P. & Noreiga, J. I. Ameghiniana 32, 57–61 (1996).

    Google Scholar 

  4. Chatterjee, S. J. Vert. Paleontol. Abstr. 9, 16A (1989).

  5. Olson, S. L. J. Vert. Paleontol. 12, 122–124 (1992).

    Google Scholar 

  6. Brodkorb, P. in Proc. XIIIth Int. Ornith. Congr. (ed. Sibley, C. G.) 55-70 (American Ornithologists Union, Ithaca, NY, 1963).

  7. Cooper, A. & Penny, D. Science 275, 1109–1113 (1997).

    Google Scholar 

  8. Hedges, S. B., Parker, P. H., Sibley, C. G. & Kumar, S. Nature 381, 226–229 (1996).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Currie, P. J., Godfrey, S. J. & Nessov, L. Can. J. Earth Sci. 30, 2255–2272 (1993).

    Google Scholar 

  10. Christidis, L., Schodde, R., Shaw, D. D. & Maynes, S. F. Condor 93, 302–317 (1991).

    Google Scholar 

  11. Miyaki, C. Y., Matioli, S. R., Burke, T. & Wajntal, A. Mol. Biol. Evol. 15, 544–551 (1998).

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Stidham, T. A lower jaw from a Cretaceous parrot. Nature 396, 29–30 (1998).

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing