Mayr, G. & Wilde, V. (2014) Eocene fossil is earliest evidence of flower-visiting by birds. Biology Letter
, 10(5): 20140223.http://rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/10/5/20140223.full.pdf+html
Birds are important pollinators, but the evolutionary history of ornithophily (bird pollination) is poorly known. Here, we report a skeleton of the avian taxon Pumiliornis
from the middle Eocene of Messel in Germany with preserved stomach contents containing numerous pollen grains of an eudicotyledonous angiosperm. The skeletal morphology of Pumiliornis
is in agreement with this bird having been a, presumably nectarivorous, flower-visitor. It represents the earliest and first direct fossil evidence of flower visiting by birds and indicates a minimum age of 47 million years for the origin of bird–flower interactions. As Pumiliornis
does not belong to any of the modern groups of flower-visiting birds, the origin of ornithophily in some angiosperm lineages may have predated that of their extant avian pollinators.