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Discovery of a remarkable fossil bird


American Journal of Science, Series 3, 3(13):56-57



Copyright © 2003-2009  by Mike Everhart

ePage created 03/11/2004; Last updated 02/14/2009


LEFT: A relatively complete but headless specimen of Hesperornis regalis discovered by C. H. Sternberg's son, Charles M., in 1907 near Twin Butte Creek in the Smoky Hill Chalk of Logan County, Kansas; in the collection of the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH FR 5100).

Wherein a brief note written by O. C. Marsh relates the November 1871 discovery of the first Cretaceous bird fossil from west of the Mississippi River.  The specimen was without a skull (much like the Sternberg's later discovery - above) and it would be several years before anyone realized that Hesperornis had teeth.   Professor Mudge found the first bird with teeth (Ichthyornis dispar) a year later.

 56                            Scientific Intelligence

II. Geology and Natural History

     1. Discovery of a remarkable fossil bird; by Professor O. C. Marsh. (From a letter to Professor Dana, dated San Francisco, Cal. Nov. 29, 1871.) -- One of the treasures secured during our explorations this year was the greater portion of the skeleton of a large fossil bird, at least five feet in height, which I was fortunate enough to discover in the Upper Cretaceous of Western Kansas. This interesting specimen, although a true bird --- as clearly as shown by the vertebræ and some other parts of the skeleton -- differs widely from any known recent or extinct forms of that class,

                           Geology and Natural History                            57


and affords a fine example of a comprehensive type. The bones are all well preserved. The femur is very short, but the other portions of the legs are quite elongated. The metatarsal bones appear to have been separated.  On my return, I shall fully describe this unique fossil under the name Hesperornis regalis.



Suggested references on Cretaceous birds:

Bühler, P., L. D. Martin and L. M. Witmer. 1988. Cranial kinesis in the Late Cretaceous birds Hesperornis and Parahesperornis. Auk 105 p. 111-122.

Chinsamy, A., L. D. Martin and P. Dodson. 1998. Bone microstructure of the diving Hesperornis and the volant Ichthyornis from the Niobrara Chalk of western Kansas. Cret. Research 19:225-235.

Gingerich, P. D. 1973. Skull of Hesperornis and early evolution of birds. Nature 243: 70-73

Gregory, J. T. 1951. Convergent evolution: The jaws of Hesperornis and the mosasaurs, Evolution, 5:345-354.

Gregory, J. T. 1952. The jaws of the Cretaceous toothed birds Ichthyornis and Hesperornis. Condor 54(2):73-88, 9 figs., 1 table.

Lane, H. H. 1946, A survey of the fossil vertebrates of Kansas, Part IV, The Birds, Kansas Academy Science, Transactions  49(4):390-400.

Lucas, S. G. 1982. Ichthyornis in the Late Cretaceous Mancos Shale (Juana Lopez Member), Northwest New Mexico. Journal of Paleontology 56(2):545-547.

Marsh, O. C. 1870. [Cretaceous and Tertiary birds of the U.S.] Nature (London), 1:546.

Marsh, O. C. 1872. Discovery of a remarkable fossil bird. American Journal of Science, series 3, 3(13):56-57. (for January - Hesperornis)

Marsh, O. C. 1872. Preliminary description of Hesperornis regalis, with notices of four other new species of Cretaceous birds. American Journal of Science, series 3, 3(17):360-365.

Marsh, O. C. 1872. Notice of a new and remarkable fossil bird. American Journal of Science, series 3,  4(22):344. (Ichthyornis)

Marsh, O. C. 1872. Notice of a new reptile from the Cretaceous. American Journal of Science, series 3, 4(23):406.

Marsh, O. C. 1873. Fossil birds from the Cretaceous of North America. American Journal of Science, series 3, 5(27):229-231.

Marsh, O. C. 1875. On the Odontornithes, or birds with teeth. American Journal of Science, series 3, 10(59):403-408, pl. 9-10.

Marsh, O. C. 1875. Odontornithes, or birds with teeth. American Naturalist. 9(12):625-631, pl. 2-3.

Marsh, O. C. 1880. Odontornithes: A monograph on the extinct toothed birds of North America. U.S. Geological Expl. 40th Parallel (King), vol. 7, xv + 201 p., 34 pl.  (Synopsis of American Cretaceous birds, appendix 191-199)

Marsh, O. C. 1883. Birds with Teeth. 3rd Annual Report of the Secretary of the Interior, 3: 43-88. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.

Martin, J. E. 1982. The occurrence of Hesperornis in the late Cretaceous Niobrara Formation of South Dakota. Proceedings South Dakota Academy of Science

Martin, L. D. 1981. The skeleton of Baptornis advenus from the Cretaceous of Kansas, Smithsonian Contributions Paleobiology 27:36-66.

Martin, L. D. 1984. A new hesperornithid and the relationships of the Mesozoic birds. Kansas Academy Science, Transactions  87:141-150.

Martin, L. D., and J. D. Stewart. 1977. Teeth in Ichthyornis (Class: Aves). Science, 185(4284):1331-1332.

Martin, L. D. and J. D. Stewart. 1982. An ichthyornithiform bird from the Campanian of Canada. Canadian Journal of Earth Science 324-327.

Martin, L. D. and J. D. Stewart. 1996. Implantation and replacement of bird teeth. Smithsonian Contributions to Paleobiology 89:295-300.

Martin, L. D. and J. Tate Jr. 1966. A bird with teeth. Museum Notes, University of Nebraska State Museum, 29:1-2.

Walker, M. V. 1967. Revival of interest in the toothed birds of Kansas. Kansas Academy of Science, Transactions 70(1):60-66.

Williston, S. W. 1898. Addenda to Part I.   The University Geological Survey of Kansas, 4:28-32.

Williston, S. W. 1898. Birds. The University Geological Survey of Kansas, Part II,  4:43-53, pls.5-8.