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Gansus facts for kids

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Temporal range: Lower Cretaceous, ~110 million years ago
Scientific classification

Hou & Liu, 1984
  • G. yumenensis Hou & Liu, 1984 (type)

Gansus is a genus of aquatic birds that lived during the Lower Cretaceous period, between 115 to 105 million years ago (mya). It was found in what is now Gansu province, western China. It is the oldest-known of the Ornithurae, the group which includes modern birds (Neornithes) and extinct related groups, such as Confuciusornis, Ichthyornis and Hesperornis.


The genus Gansus contains a single species, G. yumenensis, which was about the size of a pigeon and similar in appearance to loons and diving ducks. It had many features common among modern birds, and also retained some primitive traits such as its clawed wings.

Gansus was discovered in the form of a single fossil foot in 1981. Five more well-preserved fossils were found in 2003–2004 in mudstone at the site of an ancient lake at Changma, Gansu; the geological stratum in which the fossils were found is the Xiagou Formation. Their bodies had settled in anoxic mud and were soon covered with further extremely fine silty sediments. Without oxygen, their remains resisted decay: these specimens preserved remains of flight feathers and traces of the webbing between their toes.

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