Recent studies have blurred the distinctness of two major avian groups: the Enantiornithes, a major radiation of early birds in the Cretaceous, and the Ornithuromorpha, the clade including extant birds. Here we describe a new enantiornithine bird from the Lower Cretaceous Jiufotang Formation of western Liaoning, China, Xiangornis shenmi, gen. et sp. nov., which further reduces the morphological gap between the two groups. Xiangornis shenmi has several enantiornithine features, including a furcula with a significantly elongated hypocleidium, a coracoid with a convex lateral margin, and a minor metacarpal that extends further distally than the major metacarpal. However, it also possesses some derived ornithurine features, such as a short alular metacarpal (about one-sixth as long as the major metacarpal) that is completely fused to the major metacarpal, a large extensor process on the alular metacarpal, proximal and distal fusion between the minor and major metacarpals, and an intermetacarpal space positioned significantly distal to the alular metacarpal. This new find indicates that a carpometacarpal morphology similar to that seen in modern birds probably evolved independently in enantiornithines and appeared earlier than in Ornithuromorpha, and demonstrates that character evolution in early birds was more complex than previously believed.
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