Although geographically widespread, the genus Pelecanus has only 7 or 8 species extant (depending on the classification system used). A similar number of fossil species have been identified, although the morphological differences are quite small. Until recently, the earliest fossil form was dated as Early Miocene. Newly published work pushed the first appearance back to the Early Oligocene, considered to be about 30 million years old. The point of interest for us is that the fossil, and specifically the beak, is said to be “morphologically identical to modern pelicans”.
“All these characteristics of the fossil are identical to those of the species in Pelecanus, the single extant genus in the family. [. . .] Therefore, [the specimen] can be considered a morphologically modern pelican of the genus Pelecanus, but it is not closer to any particular extant species.”
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