||This article may be too technical for most readers to understand. (January 2011)|
Temporal range: Late Cretaceous, 90Ma
Unlinke many contemporary genera, which are only known from a handful of remains that cannot be compared among each other, Explorornis is known from a handful of coracoids which are similar enough to be at least preliminarily assigned to a single genus. Nonetheless, each of the named species as well as the 2 unnamed ones are known by a single, damaged bone. They are all from the Bissekty Formation of the Kyzyl Kum, in present-day Uzbekistan.
Explorornis means simply "discovered bird", from Latin explōrō "to discover" and Ancient Greek ornis (όρνις) "bird". The named species are honoring famous paleontologists: Lev Alexandrovich Nesov (1947–1995) and Cyril Alexander Walker.
E. walkeri (specimen PO 4825) was originally placed in Enantiornis, because at the time of its description very little was known about Enantiornithes diversity. With the description of the type species E. nessovi (PO 4819), it became clear that E. walkeri was much closer to that bird than to the South American Enantiornis, which also makes far more sense considering biogeography.
The unnamed specimens are distinct from these but each resembles one named species more than the other; PO 4818 seems closer to E. nessovi but is stouter than that bone, while PO 4817 appears more similar to E. walkeri.
These were all smallish birds, maybe 15–20 cm long in life, except E. walkeri which was probably more than 25 cm long.
Since only the coracoids are known, the phylogenetic position of these taxa is somewhat unresolved. They do resemble the more advanced Enantiornithes more than they do any other bird however. Confirmation of their placement with Euenantiornithes would still require more material however.
In addition, E. walkeri and PO 4817 seem to be more apomorphic than the other two bones, judging from the little data available. The former have some similarities to taxa such as:
- Incolornis and
- Largirostrornis, and this might indicate that they do belong to a different, as yet unnamed, genus after all.
- Mortimer (2004)
- Mortimer, Michael (2004): The Theropod Database: Phylogeny of taxa. Retrieved 2013-MAR-02.
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