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Article: Early Cretaceous (Berriasian) birds and pterosaurs from the Cornet bauxite mine, Romania

Publication: Palaeontology
Volume: 54
Part: 1
Publication Date: January 2011
Page(s): 79 95
Author(s): Gareth J. Dyke, Michael J. Benton, Erika Posmosanu and Darren Naish
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How to Cite

DYKE, G. J., BENTON, M. J., POSMOSANU, E., NAISH, D. 2011. Early Cretaceous (Berriasian) birds and pterosaurs from the Cornet bauxite mine, Romania. Palaeontology54, 1, 79–95.

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We revisit a small but extremely significant collection of bird and pterosaur bones from the Lower Cretaceous (Berriasian) of western Romania. These fossils were collected in the late 1970s and early 1980s from a Lower Cretaceous (Berriasian) conglomerate lens deep in a bauxite mine at Cornet, close to the city of Oradea, Romania, and they caused a sensation when first described. Some fossils were initially ascribed to the early bird genus Archaeopteryx as well as to the modern clade Neornithes, an astonishing avian assemblage if correct. Described pterosaurs include dsungaripterids and a cervical vertebra that is likely the oldest azhdarchid pterosaur known from Europe and perhaps the world. Not only does the Cornet azhdarchid support an Eurasian origin for this clade, it is also significant because of its size: it is one of the smallest representatives of this pterosaur clade yet reported. Aside from their phylogenetic affinities, these unique Romanian fossils are also important because of their age; in particular, very few birds are known globally from the earliest Cretaceous. Re-examination of collections in Oradea confirms the presence of both birds and pterosaurs in the Cornet bauxite: although the fragmentary bird remains are mostly indeterminate, one record of a hesperornithiform is confirmed. There is no evidence for Archaeopteryx at the Cornet site while the two supposed neornithines (Palaeocursornis biharicus Kessler and Jurcsák and Eurolimnornis corneti Kessler and Jurcsák) are based on undiagnostic remains and are here regarded as nomina dubia.
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