New avian remains from the Eocene of Mongolia and the phylogenetic position of the Eogruidae (Aves, Gruoidea). American Museum novitates ; no. 3494

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New York, NY : American Museum of Natural History
A well-preserved nearly complete avian tarsometatarsus was collected by the 2002 expedition of the Mongolian Academy of Sciences from Upper Eocene deposits exposed at the locality of Alag Tsav in the eastern Gobi Desert (Dornogov Aimag) of Mongolia. The new specimen is identified as part of a proposed Eogruidae clade, although it is unclear whether it is appropriately the holotype of a new species within this clade or referable to a previously named species. The clade Eogruidae has, as its current contents, species named as part of the traditional families Eogruidae + Ergilornithidae, which include several taxa of completely didactylous and apparently flightless birds. Referral of the new fossil to the clade Eogruidae is on the basis of derived reduction/loss of the metatarsal II trochlea. A series of phylogenetic analyses was used to investigate the systematic position of Eogruidae (including the new fossil, IGM 100/1447), which have been proposed to be a dominant part of Eocene to Miocene Asian faunas. First, the Mayr and Clarke (2003) dataset for crown clade Aves was used to investigate placement of Eogruidae within Aves, using a more completely known eogruid, Eogrus aeola, as an exemplar taxon. Eogrus aeola was identical to the new tarsometatarsus for all scored characters. A strict consensus cladogram of three most parsimonious trees from 1000 replicate heuristic searches placed Eogrus aeola in an unresolved polytomy with Psophiidae and Gruidae (trumpeters and cranes). Given the results of this analysis, Eogruidae (including IGM 100/1447) was analyzed in the suborder Grues dataset of Livezey (1998). Eogruidae was placed as the sister taxon to an Aramidae + Gruidae clade in the strict consensus cladogram of the eight most parsimonious trees resulting from a branch and bound search. Because monophyly of the traditional order Gruiformes has been repeatedly questioned, and the outgroups used in the original Grues dataset were identified through analyses assuming monophyly, the impact of removing these assumptions was investigated. Placement was robust to both changing outgroup assumptions and to swapping in the more incompletely known IGM 100/1447 as an exemplar for Eogruidae.
17 p. : ill., map ; 26 cm.