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Hello again,

 

I just read that the American white pelican ( Pelecanus erythrorhynchos ) grows a kind of horn during mating season that is shed when the eggs are laid.

Has anyone ever heard of one of those being found fossil, or subfossil? I know that keratin is rarely preserved, I am just curious.

Best Regards,

J

 

 

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Thecosmilia Trichitoma

I have not heard of any being found. As you said, keratin is rarely preserved as a fossil.

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Darn Good question. For starters, there aren't many fossil pelicans out there; one of the only fossil pelican skulls with the sort of preservation you seek is this one below. I doubt such a structure would get preserved, especially since it is unique to only a single modern species (no others have this - therefore it is likely to be a geologically very 'shallow' feature that evolved recently), and it is a soft tissue structure. Even then, it would have to be preserved during the mating season.

 

image.png.bcd0368f674267ef33d6741693c12ef0.png

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Inquiring minds want to know, Bobby... where is this amazing specimen from?  

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Thanks Boesse for your information. That is a nice bird!

What I wondered was rather if the single shed horn has been found "subfossilly" , as I read that the recent ones are often found arround the nesting grounds. To find a skull with the horn still in place would indeed be very lucky ( or unlucky from the birds perspective)

Best Regards,

J

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1) @Mahnmut Ah, thanks for the clarification - I have no idea. I also don't know if they fall off as a piece, shrink, or are exfoliated in pieces, which would definitely control whether or not you would find them like shed antlers!

 

2) @jpc The specimen is published by Louchart et al. in Journal of Ornithology (2011) and they state that it is from the Oligocene of France! Despite being shockingly derived/modern it is the oldest known pelican!

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