Sunday 14 October 2018

Winnicavis gorskii: A new species of Passerine Bird from the Early Oligocene Menilite Shales of southern Poland.

Passerine Birds are the largest and most successful group of living Birds, and by extension the most specious Dinosaur group ever to have lived. Despite this they have a very poor fossil record, largely due to the very delicate nature of these Bird's bones. The first Eocene Passerine Bird fossil was disovered in Australia in the mid-1990s, leading to the theory that Passerines had a Southern Hemisphere origin, however since then a number of Oligocene Passerine Birds have been discovered in Europe, suggesting that the group was well established and diverse in this area by then, shedding doubts upon the southern origin theory.

In a paper published in the joural Palaeontologica Electronica on 16 August 2018, Zbigniew Bochenski, Teresa Tomek and Krzysztof Wertz of the Institute of Systematics and Evolution of Animals of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Johannes Happ of the Department of Palaeontology at the University of Vienna, Małgorzata Bujoczek of the Department of Forest Biodiversity at the University of Agriculture and Ewa Swidnicka of the Department of Palaeozoology at the University of Wrocław, describe a new species of Passerine Bird from the Early Oligocene Menilite Shales of Podkarpackie Province in southern Poland.

The new Bird is named Winnicavis gorskii, where 'Winnicavis' means 'Winnica-Bird' in reference to the area where the specimen was found, and 'gorskii' honours Andrzej Górski, who discovered the specimen. The specimen comprises Two incomplete wings with a shoulder girdle, plus fragments of at least 12 flight feathers from the right wing, partially articulated, preserved as part and counterpart on a split slab. The affinities of this Bird within the Passerines are unclear, but Bochenski estimate from its wing structure that it has a typical Passerine mode of flight, characterised by flapping phases and pauses.

Winnicavis gorskii from Winnica, Poland, early Oligocene (top left - main slab; bottom left - counterslab) and interpretative drawings (right). Left (L) and right (R) elements are indicated. Abbreviations: cmc, carpometacarpus; cr, os carpi radiale, cu, os carpi ulnare; dmaj, phalanx distalis digiti majoris; pmaj, phalanx proximalis digiti majoris; pmin,  phalanx digiti minoris. Numbers in circles on the slabs: (1) primaries, (2) secondaries, (3) underwing coverts, (4) primary coverts. Zbigniew et al. (2018).

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