New species find links Australian and South American shorebirds

Tuesday 13 October 2015

Vanesa L De Pietri, R Paul Scofield, Alan J D Tennyson, Suzanne J Hand &Trevor H Worthy. Wading a lost southern connection: Miocene fossils from New Zealand reveal a new lineage of shorebirds (Charadriiformes) linking Gondwanan avifaunas. Journal of Systemic Palaeontology. 13 October 2015.

An endemic and previously unknown lineage of shorebirds (Charadriiformes: Scolopaci) is described from early Miocene (1916 Ma) deposits of New Zealand.

Hakawai melvillei

Hakawai melvillei - a newly-discovered species of shorebird. Image credit: Derek Onley.

Hakawai melvillei gen. et sp. nov. represents the first pre-Quaternary record of the clade in New Zealand and offers the earliest evidence of Australasian breeding for any member of the Scolopaci. Hakawai melvillei was a representative of the clade that comprises the South American seedsnipes (Thinocoridae) and the Australian Plains-wanderer (Pedionomidae), and presumed derived features of its postcranial skeleton indicate a sister taxon relationship to Australian pedionomids.

Our findings reinforce that terrestrial adaptations in seedsnipes and the Plains-wanderer are convergent as previously proposed, and support an ancestral wading ecology for the clade. Although vicariance events may have contributed to the split between pedionomids and H. melvillei, the proposed sister taxon relationship between these taxa indicates that the split of this lineage from thinocorids must have occurred independently from Australia and Zealandia’s separation from the rest of Gondwana.

See our media release here.

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