What’s it about?
The Hesperornithiformes are toothed birds that lived during the Cretaceous period. They are not directly related to modern birds, but clearly were birds that lived near water and foraged by diving, similar to modern cormorants, loons, grebes, and some ducks. In the past, some scientists have considered hesperornithiforms most similar to grebes and loons, but this paper shows that cormorants are a better modern analogue.
Why does it matter?
The modern diving birds (grebes, loons, diving ducks, and cormorants) all forage by diving, but otherwise live in slightly different environments and have different lifestyles. Interpreting hesperornithiforms as more cormorant-like than grebe- or loon- like affects the how scientists understand the environment in which they lived, which then provides new insight into the world of the Cretaceous.
Why did I read this?
I’ve been associated with some recent work dealing with Cretaceous aquatic birds, so I thought this would be an interesting read. The discussion of the methods used (PCA) was a little beyond me, but the conclusions were interesting.