Temporal range: Early Cretaceous, 124.5Ma
Ji et al., 2002
|Species:||† J. orientalis|
Ji et al., 2002
Jixiangornis is a genus of primitive birds from the Early Cretaceous. Like later birds, it had a beak and no teeth, but it also had a long tail, unlike modern birds. Since teeth were still present in some more advanced short-tailed birds, Jixiangornis seems to have evolved its beak independently of modern birds. The long forelimb (131% of hindlimb length) indicates a flying bird. Jixiangornis is currently known only from the type specimen, a complete but juvenile skeleton. The fossil was found in the Yixian Formation near Beipiao City, western Liaoning, China.
The type and presently only species, J. orientalis ("Oriental bird from the Yixian Formation"), was described in November 2002. Ji et al. (2002) considered Jixiangornis capable of stronger flight than either Archaeopteryx or Jeholornis. Their phylogenetic tree shows Jixiangornis forming a clade (called "Euavialae" by Ji et al.) with short-tailed birds that excludes Archaeopteryx and Jeholornis (=Shenzhouraptor).
An alternative view was presented by Zhou Zong-He and Zhang Fu-Cheng in 2006. They classified both Jixiangornis and Shenzhouraptor as junior synonyms of Jeholornis prima, meaning that Jixiangornis cannot be more advanced than Shenzhouraptor. This approach, however, was problematical given the numerous differences between Jixiangornis and Shenzhouraptor/Jeholornis, and a phylogenetic analysis performed in 2014 found that it may actually be more closely related to short-tailed birds (Pygostylia) than to Jeholornis, as originally thought.
- Ji, Q.; Ji, S.; Zhang, H.; You, H.; Zhang, J.; Wang, L.; Yuan, C. & Ji, X. (2002): A new avialan bird - Jixiangornis orientalis gen. et sp. nov. - from the Lower Cretaceous of Western Liaoning, NE China. Journal of Nanjing University (Natural Sciences) 38(6): 723-736 [in Chinese with English abstract].
- Zhou, Z.-H. & Zhang, F.-C. (2006): Mesozoic birds of China - A synoptic review. Vertebrata Palasiatica 44(1): 74-98. PDF fulltext
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