Scientists have found a new species of sandgrouse in rocks dating back 6 to 9 million years in northwest China's Gansu Province, pointing to dry, arid habitats near the edge of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau as it rose to its current extreme altitude.
The new species, found by researchers from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, has been named Linxiavis inaquosus, and fills a gap in the sandgrouse fossil record.
The fossil of the partial skeleton includes much of the body, such as the shoulder girdles, wishbone, bones from both wings, vertebrae, and part of a leg. Unfortunately, the head is missing, said researchers.
The discovery was recently published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.
"As the oldest fossil of a sandgrouse in Asia and the most complete fossil known from the group, the new skeleton provides a key link in expanding our understanding of the evolution of the sandgrouse living in China today, as well as the ecosystem associated with the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and the species that live only there," said Li Zhiheng, first author of the study.
Sandgrouse are a group of 16 species of birds related to pigeons that live in some of the most arid areas across Europe, Asia, and Africa. The association between sandgrouse and dry environments has helped scientists determine that the area next to the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau was equally arid when Linxiavis inaquosus lived during the period known as the late Miocene.