Confuciusornis ‭(‬Confucius bird‭)‬

Short Info

Confuciusornis ‭(‬Confucius bird‭)‬

Phonetic : Kon-few-shus-or-nis.

Named By : Zhou Zhonge,‭ ‬Hu Yoaming,‭ ‬Hou Lianhai‭ & ‬Gu Youcai‭ ‬-‭ ‬1995

Diet : Carnivore / Uncertain maybe Piscivore

Size : Wingspan about‭ ‬70‭ ‬centimetres

Type of Dinosaur : Small Theropod

Type Species : C.‭ ‬sanctus‭ (‬type‭)‬,‭ ‬C.‭ ‬dui,‭ ‬C.‭ ‬feducciai,‭ ‬C.‭ ‬jianchangensis

Found in : China‭ ‬-‭ ‬Yixian Formation‭ & ‬Jiufotang Formation

When it Lived : Early Cretaceous, 127-121 million years ago

Confuciusornis is one of the genus that includes large avialans that resembled crows in the Early Cretaceous Period of the Yixian and Jiufotang Formations in China which dates back 120 to 125 millennia ago. As contemporary birds Confuciusornis featured a beak without teeth, however close cousins of modern birds like Hesperornis and Ichthyornis had teeth, indicating that tooth loss was a convergent event in Confuciusornis as well as living birds. It is the earliest known bird with teeth. It was named for its founder, Chinese philosophical philosopher Confucius (551-479 BC). Confuciusornis is among the largest vertebrates discovered throughout the Yixian Formation and more than a hundred fully articulated, articulated specimens have been discovered.


Confuciusornis maleTommy from Arad, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons


The month of November, 1993 Chinese paleontologists Hou Lianhai and Hu Yoaming of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) in Beijing visited fossil hunter Zhang He at his home in Jinzhou He presented them with the fossil bird specimen was purchased at an area flea market. On December 1, Hou was informed of a new specimen that was discovered by an agriculturalist named Yang Yushan. Both specimens were located within the same location located in Shangyuan, Beipiao. In 1995, the two specimens, and another were officially described as a novel bird species and genus, Confuciusornis sanctus, by Hou and coworkers. The generic name blends the philosopher Confucius and the Greek ornis (ornis), “bird”. The particular name translates to “holy one” in Latin and is a translation from Chinese Sheng Xian, shengxian, “sage,” again in reference to Confucius. The first specimen to be discovered was identified as the holotype, and classified under the specimen code IVPP V10918. It is the skull of a partial skeleton and a portion of the forelimb. The two other skeletons one (paratype, IVPP V10895) includes a complete pelvis as well as hind limb, while the second (paratype, IVPP V10919-10925) is a fragmentary hind limb and six feather impressions that are attached to the tibia’s two sides (shin bone). It was discovered later that the paratypes contain only bones different from the holotype and that the absence of overlap renders the connection between them and the species questionable. The discovery of an abundance of well-preserved specimens was able to confirm that the specimens are indeed one species. : 16


Confuciusornis sanctus fossil bird (Yixian Formation, Lower Cretaceous; Sihetun Quarry, Liaoning Province, northeastern China) 1James St. John, Ohio State University, Newark, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Along with the mammal of the beginning Zhangheotherium that was discovered approximately in the same period, Confuciusornis was considered to be the most impressive fossil discovered in the Jehol biota. It was believed that in the following decades would provide the most significant evidence of Mesozoic birds from all over the world. 5-6 In the mid 90s Confuciusornis is regarded as the bird with the longest beak as well as the second most primitive bird following Archaeopteryx. It was also thought to be just a bit older than Archaeopteryx and the Yixian Formation which is the rock unit from which the vast majority of Confuciusornis specimens were found was believed to have been of Late Jurassic (Tithonian) age in the period. While two genera of birds, Sinornis and Cathayornis, had been described in the Jehol biota in 1992 they were based only on fragmentary remains and are derived from the Jiufotang Formation, which was thought as being of Early Cretaceous age. In the following years, both formations have been dating back prior to Lower Cretaceous (Barremian to Aptian stages, between 131 and 120 million years in the past).

In 1995, farmers from the area started digging for fossils around the town of Sihetun, Beipiao, in what would eventually become one of the top-producing locales in the Jehol biota. The large-scale excavations of professionals at this particular site were carried out by the IVPP from 1997 and onwards. the fossils recovered include a number of hundred examples of Confuciusornis. Numerous other sites that produce fossils from Jehol biota Jehol biota were identified and are spread over the entire region, comprising Liaoning, Hebei, and Inner Mongolia. 7. Due to the abundance, conservation and commercial value of fossils, excavations conducted by local farmers resulted in an astonishingly large amount of fossils. While a few of the fossils have been included in the collection of Chinese research institutes, the majority are likely to have been taken from the country. The year 1999 was reported that the National Geological Museum of China in Beijing was home to more than 100 specimens of Confuciusornis 16, and in the year 2010 The Shandong Tianyu Museum of Nature was believed to hold 536 bird specimens. Most specimens are kept in private and aren’t available to research.

At one point, 40 individuals were found on a surface of approximately 100 square meters. The reason for this is the result of whole groups of birds being killed by heat, ash or poisonous gas in the aftermath of the eruptions of volcanic rock that created the tuff stone that fossils were found to form lake sediments.

Source: Wikipedia