Galliform Birds (Pheasants, Chickens etc.) are a successful and widespread group today, with over 300 described species from around the world. Their fossil record dates back to the Early Eocene, when the first members of the group appeared in North America. Members of modern groups first appear in the Late Oligocene, and the group become particularly common in Pleistocene deposits. The earliest Galliformesare thought to have been closely related to the early Anserformes (Ducks and Geese).
In a paper published in the journal Palaeontologia Electronica in October 2014, Teresa Tomek, Zbigniew Bochenski and Krzysztof Wertz of the Instituteof Systematics and Evolution of Animals of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Ewa Swidnicka of the Department of Palaeozoology at the University of Wrocław, describe a new species of Galliforme Bird from the Early Oligocene Jasło limestone of the Krosno Formation at the abandoned brickyard at Sobniów, which is thought to be between 28.5 and 29 million years old.
The new species is named Sobniogallus albinojamrozi, where ‘Sobniogallus’ means ‘Sobniów-cock’ and ‘albinojamrozi’ honours Albin Jamróz, who found the specimen from which the species is described. The species is described from a single specimen, preserved as part and counterpart on a split limestone slab, and comprises an articulated skeleton of a Quail-sized Bird, lacking the head and legs.
Sobniogallus albinojamrozi, specimen from Sobniów,Poland, early Oligocene (top) and interpretative drawings (bottom). (1)and(3) main slab; (2) and (4)counterslab. Left (L)and right (R) elements are indicated. Abbreviations: al - phalanx digiti alulae, cmc – carpometacarpus, cr – oscarpiradiale, cu – oscarpiulnare, dmaj – phalanx distalisdigitimajoris, pmaj – phalanx proximalisdigitimajoris, pmin –phalanx digitiminoris, tbt – tibiotarsus, vr – vertebrae. Tomek et al. (2014).
Sobniogallus albinojamrozi is clearly a Galliforme Bird, but does not appear to belong to any previously described group of Galliformes, living or extinct, and retains some features more typical of Anserforme Birds, leading Tomek et al. to conclude that it is probably an early offshoot within the group, and not closely related to any living form.
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A preserved Passerine Bird’s foot from the late Oligocene of Poland. Passerines (Perching Birds) are the most numerous and successful group of Birds in the modern world, with over half of all known Bird species being Passerines, including Finches, Thrushes, Sparrows, Warblers and Crows. Despite their success the group do not have an extensive fossil record, largely due to their small and delicate bones. The oldest putative Passerine fossils are from the early Eocene of Australia.
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