Abstract

The avifauna identified in Europe during the first part of the Tertiary shows great affinities with the South American avifauna, fossil or recent : new discoveries indicate that this avifauna was also present in North America. It is possible to define an association of taxa, constituting a continental basal avifauna, common to these three continents, and amongst which some elements have survived only in South America. Some components of this avifauna having lost their ability to fly, or having a reduced flying ability, it is proposed that they diversified during the Upper Cretaceous or the Palaeocene and that they dispersed from South to North America, then to Europe, or the other way round, at a time when faunistic exchanges were possible by land routes, as has been demonstrated in other groups of vertebrates. The African avifauna at the same period is not very well known but, on the whole, the faunistic composition is different from that of the South America - North America-Europe group.

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