Unraveling the origins of the character complexes diagnosing major crown clades is one of the greatest challenges in evolutionary biology. These origination events tend to optimize along extraordinarily long stem lineages where the comparative biology of extant lineages is relatively weak in its heuristic power. Here we add to a growing paleontological literature on the evolutionary origins of the modern avi an brain by describing the endocranial casts of two oviraptorosaur dinosaurs, Citipati osmolskae and Khaan mckennai. These fossil data confirm the antiquity of several avian features, including the expanded cerebrum. They also extend our appreciation of both the inherent variability in the brain-skull relationship along the avian stem and the dynamic nature of these crown characters in the earliest history of their expression.

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