A review of the fossil birds of China, Japan and Southeast Asia

Patricia V. Rich, Lian H. Hou, Keiichi Ono, Robert F. Baird

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To date very little is known of the history of birds in China, Japan and all of Southeast Asia (Brodkorb 1963, 1964, 1967, 1971, 1978; Kurotchkin 1976; Young 1932, 1975). Early Cretaceous birds have been recovered from Gansu Province in western China. A single bird bone has also been recovered marine Cretaceous sediments in Japan. Most of the early Cenozoic records are of gruiform birds, while late Cenozoic records constitute a variety of taxa, including some forms closely related to, or congeneric with, Struthio, as well as ducks (Anatidae), game birds (Galliformes), a few birds of prey (Falconiformes) and doves (Columbidae), so the length of the record is long, though not particularly rich. Recently work by Hou has vastly increased thediversity of Pleistocene birds from China, particularly from the Peking Man Site (Zhoukoudian) in North China. Yeh's analysis of four nearly complete avian skeletons from Miocene-aged caldera lake deposits of Shandong Province in central China, has given a better idea of whole animal biology of several groups of birds in the Oriental Realm, especially for the game birds. Hasegawa's, Ono's, and Olson's work on Japanese fossil birds is rapidly adding to knowledge from that area as well. Because of the current increased field activity, refined field techniques, and developing interest in fossil birds in both China and Japan, the quality of the record has increased markedly in the last five years. Fossil birds are extremely rare in the remainder ofSoutheast Asia and most are of Pleistocene age. Reanalysis of Protoplotus beauforti from early to mid-Cenozoic lacustrine sediments of Sumatra, by, van Tets, Rich, & Marino, suggests that it belongs in a family of its own within the Pelecaniformes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)755-772
Number of pages18
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1986


  • Avian Palaeobiogeography
  • Fossil Birds
  • Oriental Realm

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