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CT data for: Insight into the evolutionary assemblage of cranial kinesis from a Cretaceous bird


Wang, Min; Stidham, Thomas; O’Connor, Jingmai; Zhou, Zhonghe (2022), CT data for: Insight into the evolutionary assemblage of cranial kinesis from a Cretaceous bird, Dryad, Dataset,


The independent movements and flexibility of various parts of the skull, called cranial kinesis, is an evolutionary innovation that is found in living vertebrates only in some squamates and crown birds and is considered to be a major factor underpinning much of the enormous phenotypic and ecological diversity of living birds, the most diverse group of extant amniotes. Compared to the postcranium, our understanding of the evolutionary assemblage of the characteristic modern bird skull has been hampered by sparse fossil records of early cranial materials, with competing hypotheses regarding the evolutionary development of cranial kinesis among early members of the avialans. Here, a detailed three-dimensional reconstruction of the skull of the Early Cretaceous enantiornithine Yuanchuavis kompsosoura allows for its in-depth description, including elements that are poorly known among early diverging avialans but are central to deciphering the mosaic assembly of features required for modern avian cranial kinesis. Our reconstruction of the skull shows evolutionary and functional conservation of the temporal and palatal regions by retaining the ancestral theropod dinosaurian configuration within the skull of this otherwise derived and volant bird. Geometric morphometric analysis of the palatine suggests that loss of the jugal process represents the first step in the structural modifications of this element leading to the kinetic crown bird condition. The mixture of plesiomorphic temporal and palatal structures together with a derived avialan rostrum and postcranial skeleton encapsulated in Yuanchuavis manifests the key role of evolutionary mosaicism and experimentation in early bird diversification.


X-ray computed tomography imaging. To optimize the scanning resolution, the skull and the two cranial vertebrae (atlas and axis) of the holotype of Yuanchuavis kompsosoura (IVPP V27883) were isolated from the slab. The skull was scanned using the industrial CT scanner Phoenix v-tome-x at the Key Laboratory of Vertebrate Evolution and Human Origins, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP, Beijing, China), with a beam energy of 140 kV and a flux of 150 μA at a resolution of 11.68 μm per pixel. The resulting scanned images were imported into Avizo (version 9.2.0) for digital segmentation, rendering, and reconstruction. The obtained three-dimensional models were optimized in MeshLab (version 2012.12).


Key Research Program of Frontier Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Award: ZDBS-LY-DQC002

National Natural Science Foundation of China, Award: 42288201

Tencent Foundation, Award: XPLORER PRIZE