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Specimen: Palaeolodus ambiguus (bird eggshell)
Age: Lower Miocene (Aquitanian)
Location Found: St Gerard le Puy Departement Allier, France
Palaelodus is an extinct genus of birds distantly related to flamingos. They were slender birds with long, thin legs and a long neck. Little is known about the shape of their skull or beak. Some paleontologists think Palaelodus was able to swim under water, chasing prey, but the morphology of their feet seems not very well adapted for diving. Rather, it is more likely that they were adapted to browsing for food while swimming or standing in shallow water.
The family, Palaelodidae, is the sister taxon of modern flamingos, and the order Phoenicopteriformes, to which both belong, probably evolved from a grebe-like ancestor. It is easy to see how a bird like Palaelodus represents an intermediate form between a diving, fish-eating grebe and a wading, invertebrate-filtering flamingo. This does not mean that the palaelodids are the ancestors of the flamingos. Rather, they were a sister group that remained in the ecological niche of their common ancestor.
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