A reappraisal of Cerebavis cenomanica (Aves, Ornithurae), from Melovatka, Russia - NMS Research Repository
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A reappraisal of Cerebavis cenomanica (Aves, Ornithurae), from Melovatka, Russia

8 August 2016

Abstract

The evolution of the avian brain is of crucial importance to studies of the transition from non-avian dinosaurs to modern birds, but very few avian fossils provide information on brain morphological development during the Mesozoic. An isolated specimen from the Cenomanian of Melovatka in Russia was described by Kurochkin and others as a fossilized brain, designated the holotype of Cerebavis cenomanica Kurochkin and Saveliev and tentatively referred to Enantiornithes. We have previously highlighted that this specimen is an incomplete skull, rendering the diagnostic characters invalid and Cerebavis cenomanica a nomen dubium. We provide here a revised diagnosis of Cerebavis cenomanica based on osteological characters, and a reconstruction of the endocranial morphology (= brain shape) based on μCT investigation of the braincase. Absence of temporal fenestrae indicates an ornithurine affinity for Cerebavis. The brain of this taxon was clearly closer to that of modern birds than to Archaeopteryx and does not represent a divergent evolutionary pathway as originally concluded by Kurochkin and others. No telencephalic wulst is present, suggesting that this advanced avian neurological feature was not recognizably developed 93 million years ago.

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