Mass extinction of birds at the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) boundary.

Longrich, NR and Tokaryk, T and Field, D. J. (2011) Mass extinction of birds at the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) boundary. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 108 (37). pp. 15253-15257. ISSN 0027-8424 Online ISSN 1091-6490 DOI

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The effect of the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) (formerly Cretaceous-Tertiary, K-T) mass extinction on avian evolution is debated, primarily because of the poor fossil record of Late Cretaceous birds. In particular, it remains unclear whether archaic birds became extinct gradually over the course of the Cretaceous or whether they remained diverse up to the end of the Cretaceous and perished in the K-Pg mass extinction. Here, we describe a diverse avifauna from the latest Maastrichtian of western North America, which provides definitive evidence for the persistence of a range of archaic birds to within 300,000 y of the K-Pg boundary. A total of 17 species are identified, including 7 species of archaic bird, representing Enantiornithes, Ichthyornithes, Hesperornithes, and an Apsaravis-like bird. None of these groups are known to survive into the Paleogene, and their persistence into the latest Maastrichtian therefore provides strong evidence for a mass extinction of archaic birds coinciding with the Chicxulub asteroid impact. Most of the birds described here represent advanced ornithurines, showing that a major radiation of Ornithurae preceded the end of the Cretaceous, but none can be definitively referred to the Neornithes. This avifauna is the most diverse known from the Late Cretaceous, and although size disparity is lower than in modern birds, the assemblage includes both smaller forms and some of the largest volant birds known from the Mesozoic, emphasizing the degree to which avian diversification had proceeded by the end of the age of dinosaurs.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: NILAREP
Subjects: 04 - Palaeobiology
Divisions: 04 - Palaeobiology
Journal or Publication Title: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume: 108
Page Range: pp. 15253-15257
Identification Number:
Depositing User: Sarah Humbert
Date Deposited: 25 Nov 2019 18:32
Last Modified: 25 Nov 2019 18:32

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