A new Early Cretaceous enantiornithine (Aves, Ornithothoraces) from northwestern China with elaborate tail ornamentation
O'Connor et al
We provide a detailed description of a well-preserved enantiornithine specimen (GSGM-05-CM-004) from the Lower Cretaceous (Aptian) Xiagou Formation of northwestern Gansu Province, China, for which we erect the new taxon Feitianius paradisi, gen. et sp. nov. This specimen has a distinctive pelvic morphology and can be further distinguished from all other Mesozoic birds by a unique caudal plumage formed by multiple rectricial morphotypes. This newly documented tail morphology reveals a previously unrecognized level of complexity in the plumage of basal birds. This complex tail-feather morphology has a parallel in extant sexually dimorphic birds in which the males have the most altered tails; thus, we identify this specimen as male. Ornamental tail morphologies, such as the novel tail plumage described here, dominate Enantiornithes. This reinforces hypotheses that sexual selection was a major driving force in the evolution of basal bird plumage.