New paper on a new Gypaetinae vulture fossil species from China

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We know from fossil records that what we call today old World vultures (Aegypiinae and Gypaetinae) have occurred also in the New World (Americas). There are no extant Aegypiinae and Gypaetinae in the Americas today though, although there are a comparatively large number of a North American gypaetine fossils.

Complete specimens from Gypaetinae fossil species have rarely been reported from Eurasia and Africa, but now an exceptional skeleton of a new gypaetine vulture from the late Miocene has been found in deposits of the Linxia Basin in northwestern China. The specimen is the oldest record of Gypaetinae from Eurasia or Africa.

This led the authors to re-examine the geographic and temporal distribution of Old World vultures, and they suggest a diverse radiation for Gypaetinae, coincident with early- to mid-Miocene grassland expansion. A shift in the known latitudinal distribution is also noted. Neogene records of Old World vultures are found primarily in mid- and high-latitude regions of North America and Eurasia as well as in the middle and low latitudes of Eurasia and Africa. With very few records in the middle to late Miocene, a latitudinal distribution similar to that of extant species is first seen in the early Pliocene.

You can download the paper here

Article Citation:

Zhiheng Li, Julia A. Clarke, Zhonghe Zhou, and Tao Deng (2016) A new Old World vulture from the late Miocene of China sheds light on Neogene shifts in the past diversity and distribution of the Gypaetinae. The Auk: October 2016, Vol. 133, No. 4, pp. 615-625.

Photo:A bearded vulture collage done by artista Zoe Mafham

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