Vegavis is a genus
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

 of extinct bird
Birds are feathered, winged, bipedal, endothermic , egg-laying, vertebrate animals. Around 10,000 living species and 188 families makes them the most speciose class of tetrapod vertebrates. They inhabit ecosystems across the globe, from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Extant birds range in size from...

 that lived during the Late Cretaceous
Late Cretaceous
The Late Cretaceous is the younger of two epochs into which the Cretaceous period is divided in the geologic timescale. Rock strata from this epoch form the Upper Cretaceous series...

The Maastrichtian is, in the ICS' geologic timescale, the latest age or upper stage of the Late Cretaceous epoch or Upper Cretaceous series, the Cretaceous period or system, and of the Mesozoic era or erathem. It spanned from 70.6 ± 0.6 Ma to 65.5 ± 0.3 Ma...

 stage) of Antarctica, some 65 mya. It belonged to the clade
A clade is a group consisting of a species and all its descendants. In the terms of biological systematics, a clade is a single "branch" on the "tree of life". The idea that such a "natural group" of organisms should be grouped together and given a taxonomic name is central to biological...

The order Anseriformes contains about 150 living species of birds in three extant families: the Anhimidae , Anseranatidae , and the Anatidae, which includes over 140 species of waterfowl, among them the ducks, geese, and swans.All species in the order are highly adapted for an aquatic existence at...

. Among modern birds, Vegavis is most closely related to duck
Duck is the common name for a large number of species in the Anatidae family of birds, which also includes swans and geese. The ducks are divided among several subfamilies in the Anatidae family; they do not represent a monophyletic group but a form taxon, since swans and geese are not considered...

s and geese
The word goose is the English name for a group of waterfowl, belonging to the family Anatidae. This family also includes swans, most of which are larger than true geese, and ducks, which are smaller....

Anatidae is the biological family of birds that includes ducks, geese and swans. The family has a cosmopolitan distribution, occurring on all the world's continents except Antarctica and on most of the world's islands and island groups...

), but it is not considered to be a direct ancestor of them.

The discovery of the type species
Type species
In biological nomenclature, a type species is both a concept and a practical system which is used in the classification and nomenclature of animals and plants. The value of a "type species" lies in the fact that it makes clear what is meant by a particular genus name. A type species is the species...

, Vegavis iaai, demonstrates that the major groups of bird alive today had already diversified in the Cretaceous
The Cretaceous , derived from the Latin "creta" , usually abbreviated K for its German translation Kreide , is a geologic period and system from circa to million years ago. In the geologic timescale, the Cretaceous follows the Jurassic period and is followed by the Paleogene period of the...

. This supports the longstanding phylogenetic inferences of paleornithologists
Paleornithology also known as Avian Paleontology is the scientific study of bird evolution and fossil birds. It is a mix of ornithology and paleontology. Paleornithology began with the discovery of Archaeopteryx. The reptilian relationship of birds and their ancestors, the theropod dinosaurs, are...

. It has been hailed as the first definitive physical proof that representatives of some of the groups of modern birds lived in the Mesozoic
The Mesozoic era is an interval of geological time from about 250 million years ago to about 65 million years ago. It is often referred to as the age of reptiles because reptiles, namely dinosaurs, were the dominant terrestrial and marine vertebrates of the time...


The Vegavis fossil specimen is held by the Museo de La Plata, Argentina
Argentina , officially the Argentine Republic , is the second largest country in South America by land area, after Brazil. It is constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires...

. The specimen, cataloged as MLP 93-I-3-1, was found in the Cape Lamb
Cape Lamb
Cape Lamb is a cape which forms the southwest tip of Vega Island in the James Ross Island group. Discovered by the Swedish Antarctic Expedition, 1901–04, under Otto Nordenskjold. Resighted in 1945 by the Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey , and named after Ivan M...

 deposits of Vega Island
Vega Island
Vega Island is a small island to the northwest of James Ross Island, on the Antarctic Peninsula.- See also :* Composite Antarctic Gazetteer* List of Antarctic islands south of 60° S* SCAR* Territorial claims in Antarctica- References :...

, Antarctica, in 1992, but was only described as a new species in 2005 because it consists of the very delicate remains of one bird embedded in a concretion
A concretion is a volume of sedimentary rock in which a mineral cement fills the porosity . Concretions are often ovoid or spherical in shape, although irregular shapes also occur. The word 'concretion' is derived from the Latin con meaning 'together' and crescere meaning 'to grow'...

, which had to be meticulously prepared for study. CT scans were utilized to gain a clearer picture of the bone structure without running danger of damaging or destroying the bones.

However Alan Feduccia of the University of North Carolina has called the alleged specimen an "unidentifiable bundle of bones" and has cried fowl over taking one possibly misidentified sample as evidence that the Anseriformes
The order Anseriformes contains about 150 living species of birds in three extant families: the Anhimidae , Anseranatidae , and the Anatidae, which includes over 140 species of waterfowl, among them the ducks, geese, and swans.All species in the order are highly adapted for an aquatic existence at...

 cohabited with dinosaurs.

The genus name, Vegavis, is a combination of the name of Vega Island and "avis", the Latin word for bird. The species name, "iaai", is after the acronym for Instituto Antartico Argentino (IAA), the Argentine scientific expedition to Antarctica.

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