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New records of buttonquails (1 Viewer)

Fred Ruhe

Well-known member
Vanesa L. DE PIETRI. Gerald MAYR, Loïc COSTEUR & R. Paul SCOFIELD. 2022

New records of buttonquails (Aves, Charadriiformes, Turnicidae) from the Oligocene and Miocene of Europe

Comptes Rendus Palevol. 21 (11): 235–244. doi:10.5852/cr-palevol2022v21a11

Abstract and free pdf: https://sciencepress.mnhn.fr/sites/default/files/articles/pdf/comptes-rendus-palevol2022v21a11.pdf

Buttonquails (Turnicidae) are morphologically derived, quail-like members of the avian order Charadriiformes (shorebirds) that live in Old World dry tropical and subtropical open habitats. The morphological disparity between modern buttonquails and other shorebirds is bridged by Paleogene stem-group turnicids, which have a less specialised morphology. However, there is currently a large temporal gap in the fossil record between the earliest European buttonquails (early Oligocene) and the youngest pre-Quaternary records (late Miocene). Here we describe two new taxa from France, based on partial humeri, which we refer to Turnicidae gen. et sp. indet. The oldest record stems from deposits from the latest Oligocene, which are part of the Saint-Gérand-le-Puy fossil sites. The younger record is from the early-middle Miocene fissure filling of Vieux-Collonges. In morphology, both taxa are more similar to early Oligocene species of Turnipax Mayr, 2000 than to crown-group turnicids. Although the fossils are too fragmentary to allow ecomorphological interpretations, Paleoenvironmental data suggest that, like Paleogene buttonquails, these taxa departed from the adaptations to open arid environments by modern-type turnicids. Our assessments therefore reinforce previous hypotheses that crown-group turnicids probably did not diversify before the late Miocene, and argue in favour of broader ecological preferences in stem-group turnicids,



Fred Ruhe

Well-known member

Class AVES Linnaeus, 1758
Order CHARADRIIFORMES Huxley, 1867
Family Turnicidae Gray, 1840


The following combination of characters of the distal humerus, present in both stem and crown-group turnicids, supports, within Charadriiformes, referral to the Turnicidae: fossa musculi brachialis well defined and situated on the ventral portion of the distal end, close to the margo ventralis; processus supracondylaris dorsalis present but small; distal end ventrally expanded at level of fossa musculi brachialis; wide but shallow sulcus humerotricipitalis and fossa olecrani. The proximal end of the humerus is highly derived for crowngroup Turnicidae (e.g. Bock & McEvey 1969), especially in species of Turnix, and other than for specimens of the genus
Turnipax showing partial views, it is essentially unknown for other pre-Quaternary specimens. Nevertheless, we refer the proximal humeri described below to the Turnicidae based on a combination of features present in Ortyxelos meiffrenii and/
or Turnipax (e.g. transverse ridge across a very deep incisura capitis; shallow depression in lieu of dorsal fossa pneumotricipitalis in Turnipax) and in crown-group Turnicidae (e.g. poorly marked/defined sulcus transversus and impressio coracobrachialis; tuberculum dorsale not raised). These features of the proximal and distal humerus are easily distinguished from the condition in most other Charadriiform family-level taxa and have been assessed by many authors (e.g.
Bock & McEvey 1969; Strauch 1978; Mayr 2000; De Pietri et al. 2011, 2016a, b, 2020a, b; De Pietri & Mayr 2012; Zelenkov et al. 2016). However, due to the fragmentary nature of the fossils we describe, below we provide more detailed comparisons with some other charadriiforms, where appropriate. For example, Rostratulidae have been recorded in the early Miocene of Europe (Mlíkovský 1999) and some authors have noted similarities between the humerus of stem-group turnicids and rostratulids (Mayr 2000; Mayr & Knopf 2007).

Gen. et sp. indet. A

Material. — NMB Bst 2550, distal left humerus (Fig. 1A, F).

Tentatively referred material.
— NMB Bst 3663, distal right humerus.

— NMB Bst 2550, distal width: 3.9; minimum shaft width: 1.7; NMB Bst 3663, distal width: 3.4 (broken), minimum shaft width: 1.9.

Locality and age. — Coderet-Bransat (Commune de Bransat, Département of Allier), Massif Central, France; NW part of the Limagne Rift Basin; late Oligocene (MP 30), c. 23.03 Ma (see e.g. Pickford & Hugueney 2018 and references in De Pietri & Scofield 2014). The fossiliferous layer is a marly lens located in fluvio-lacustrine
limestones. The site was found and excavated by Jean Viret from Lyon and Johannes Hürzeler from Basel in 1925 and later Marguerite Hugueney from Lyon undertook a new excavation in the 1960’s (Hugueney 1969).


We abstain from naming this species because of the fragmentary nature of the material. NMB Bst 3663 is only tentatively allied with NMB Bst 2550 as the ventral side of the specimen is missing. The dorsal portion of this bone, however, agrees with NMB Bst 2550 but we cannot confidently ascertain whether they represent the same species as most diagnostic features are present on the ventral side of the distal humerus (see below). We also note that, although most material recovered from Coderet-Bransat was usually found disarticulated, articulated (mammalian) specimens are not uncommon (Pickford & Hugueney 2018). For example, it is therefore likely that, given the preservation of the bones, the burhinid from this
locality described by De Pietri & Scofield (2014) represents one individual. Similarly, if both NMB Bst 3663 and 2550 do represent the same species, preservation might indicate they also belong to the same individual, although it would be difficult to explain why only distal humeri were preserved. Both bones were field collected by Herrmann Helbing and were catalogued at NMB as “bird bones”in 1925.

Gen. et sp. indet. B

Material. — NMB V.C. 61 (proximal right humerus; Fig. 1K, O); NMB V.C. 4258 (proximal right humerus.

Measurements. — NMB Vc 61: proximal width, 6.8, minimum shaft width, 2.2; NMB V.C. 4258: proximal width, 7.1.

Locality and age. — Vieux-Collonges, Central-Eastern France; MN5, 17-15 Ma, late early to middle Miocene (Mein 1958, 1975). The site is a now empty fissure filling within Aalenian marine limestones, which was filled with siderothithic red clay. It is located in a former quarry in the village of Saint-Cyr north to the city of Lyon. It was discovered as early as 1875 by an amateur palaeontologist and subsequently visited by various palaeontologists from Basel in the 1930’s (Johannes Hürzeler and Charles Immanuel Forsyth-Major) and Lyon (Pierre Mein) in the late 1940’s to late 1950’s (Mein 1958).


Although direct comparisons of the proximal humerus with other turnicids are, for the most part, not straightforward because the proximal humerus of stem-group turnicids is only partially known and the morphology in species of Turnix is very derived, some features, particularly similarities with Ortyxelos meiffrenii (Fig. 1M, Q) and species of Turnipax (Fig. 1I), do support this attribution.


Fig. 1. — Turnicidae gen. et sp. indet. A (A, E, F) from Coderet-Bransat and Turnicidae gen. et sp. indet. B (J, K, N, O) from Vieux-Collonges, France, in comparison to Turnipax oechslerorum Mayr & Knopf, 2007 (B, I) from the early Oligocene of Germany and extant Turnicidae. Distal left humerus of: A, F, NMB Bst
2550 Turnicidae gen. et sp. A in cranial (A) and caudal (F) views; C, G, Turnix velox (Gould, 1841) SAMA B46502 in cranial (C) and caudal (G) views. Distal right
humerus of: B, Turnipax oechslerorum in cranial view; D, H, Ortyxelos meiffrenii (Vieillot, 1819) NHMUK S/1952.2.71 in cranial (D) and caudal (H) views (mirrored
to facilitate comparisons); E, NMB Bst 3663 in cranial view. Proximal right humerus of: I, Turnipax oechslerorum in caudal view; J, N, NMB V.C. 4258 in caudal (J)
and cranial (N) views; K, O, NMB V.C. 61 in caudal (K) and cranial (O) views; L, P, Turnix velox SAM B46502 in caudal (L) and cranial (P) views; M, Q, Ortyxelos
meiffrenii NHMUK S/1952.2.71 in caudal (M) and cranial (Q) views. Abbreviations: cb, crista bicipitalis; cdp, crista deltopectoralis; ch, caput humeri; cv, condylus
ventralis; dep, depression of incisura capitis; dfp, dorsal fossa pneumotricipitalis; fmb, fossa musculi brachialis; mkn, “medial knob” sensu Bock & McEvey
(1969); pf, processus flexorius; psd, processus supracondylaris dorsalis; snc, sulcus nervi coracobrachialis; td, tuberculum dorsale. Scale bars: 2 mm.


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