With only one scientifically known specimen to exist of this species, this fossil skull presents itself as one of the rarest opportunities for a fossil collector - the only chance to private only the second known example. This is an incredibly rare fossil cranium of Lithoptila abdounensis, an extinct species of seabird that lived during the Late Paleocene (Thanetian) of Morocco. It is a distant relative of the tropicbirds. It is Africa's earliest known Neornithine bird to have evolved from the dinosaurs and its discovery was just made in 2005! The cranium was found in the phosphate mines of the Oulad Abdoun Basin of Morocco and was collected as you see it, still partially embedded in its original matrix. We carefully removed enough of the surrounding sandstone to reveal necessary anatomy to properly attribute it to this genus. In all our travels for many years we have never encountered a specimen of this prehistoric bird. Contacts at the mine rarely report of rumors of fragments of bones being found that appear to be of a bird but the discovery of an identifiable cranium has been elusive until our securing of this specimen. Never again will an offer like this come by. For the most advanced collections, this is a must have specimen that deserves scientific study and a paper done on it due to its rarity and remarkable degree of intactness. Fossil birds of this period are EXTREMELY fragile and from this deposit, even more so making discoveries like this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
A new taxon of the Prophaethontidae (Aves) is described from the phosphatic beds of the Ouled Abdoun Basin, Morocco. Lithoptila abdounensis gen. et sp. nov. is represented by a single, well-preserved neurocranium, dated as upper Paleocene (Thanetian) on the basis of the selachians identified in the matrix. This specimen is the oldest known African neornithine bird and the oldest record of the Prophaethontidae. Elongated and slender wing bones suggest that this bird was an offshore or pelagic feeder capable of efficient flight. Lithoptila approximates Prophaethon in size but differs from the latter taxon in various features of the mandibula, coracoideum and femur. The anatomy and size of Lithoptila closely match those of Zhylgaia aestiflua, a putative shorebird (Charadriiformes) from the Upper Paleocene of Kazakhstan, known from two partial humeri. Consequently, we assign Zhylgaia aestiflua to the Prophaethontidae. The three species of Prophaethontidae inhabited tropical seas and most likely had comparable ecological niches.