Archiv der Kategorie: News

Te Puia o Whakaari

Today the volcano Te Puia o Whakaari, aka. White Islands has erupted – up to now at least five tourists have died there.

I have one question:

White Island does not harbor an active volcano, it is an active volcano, if you stay there and something happens, you find yourself captured in a deadly trap! So, why would anyone with a clear mind set even a single foot on this active volcano?

Elal’s Mountain Swan – Kookne yeutensis

This new bird has recently been reported from Argentinia, and its name apparently is taken from the Aonikenk language, which is or was spoken by the Mapuche of southern Argentinia and its translation is given in the title.

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The new genus and species is known so far from a single bone, an incomplete right coracoid, whose „combination of characters strongly suggests anseriform affinities“.

That means that this species obvioulsy was an anseriform, some duck- or goose-like bird, more or less similar to other Late Cretaceous or Early Paleocene species.

Let’s see if there will be more remains to be discovered in the future.

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References:

[1] Fernando. E. Novas; Federico. L. Agnolin; Sebastián Rozadilla; Alexis M. Aranciaga-Rolando; Federico Brisson-Egli; Matias J. Motta; Mauricio Cerroni; Martín D. Ezcurra; Agustín G. Martinelli; Julia S. d ́Angelo; Gerardo Alvarez-Herrera; Adriel R. Gentil; Sergio Bogan; Nicolás R. Chimento; Jordi A. García-Marasà; Gastón Lo Coco; Sergio E. Miquel; Fátima F. Brito; Ezequiel I. Vera; Valeria S. Perez Loinaze; Mariela S. Fernández & Leonardo Salgado: Paleontological discoveries in the Chorrillo Formation (upper Campanian-lower Maastrichtian, Upper Cretaceous), Santa Cruz Province, Patagonia, Argentina. Revista del Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales, n. s. 21(2): 217-293. 2019

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edited: 07.12.2019

Rufous Antpitta x six

The Rufous Antpitta is a more or less completely plain rufous-colored typical Antpitta that inhabits the dense forests of the Andes and their foothills from northern Bolivia to parts of southern Venezuela.

The bird reaches sizes from about 14,5 to 15 cm.

The species is split into six subspecies all of which are now about to be upgraded to species status, they will then probably be named as:

Bolivian Antpitta (Grallaria cochabambae J. Bond & Meyer de Schauensee)
Cajamarca Antpitta (Grallaria cajamarcae (Chapman))
North Peruvian Antpitta (Grallaria obscura Berlepsch & Stolzmann)
Rufous Antpitta (Grallaria rufula Lafresnaye)
Sierra Nevada Antpitta (Grallaria spatiator Bangs)
South Peruvian Antpitta (Grallaria occabambae (Chapman))

These future-former subspecies differ slightly in the the hue of their rufous-colored plumage, but very likely more so in their DNA.

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Rufous Antpitta (Grallaria (rufula ssp.) rufula … most likely)

Photo: Nigel Voaden

(under creative commons license (2.0))
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0

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bearbeitet: 14.08.2019

Heracles inexpectatus Worthy, Hand, Archer, Scofield & De Pietri

Heracles inexpectatus, the unexpected Hercules, is a fossil parrot from the St. Bathans fossil site in New Zealand, that just has been described. [1]

The species is known from only two remains, or rather remains of remains to be more precicely, these are a partial left tibiotarsus and a partial right tibiotarsus, that’s just all. The species can be reconstructed as having reached a size of around 1 m, making it the largest known parrot species, dead or alive.

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Unfortunately, one of the authors of this remarkable species apparently seem to think that the new find isn’t appetizing enough for the press, so added a „fierce beak“ to the description and is even speculating that this species, because of it’s size, must have been a predatory bird, which, of course, is complete bullshit. 

According to the paper, the species apparently was a member of the Nestoridae, a family of parrots endemic to New Zealand, and within this family its closest relative appears to be the Kakapo (Strigops habroptilus Grey), a strict herbivor. So, I personally have no idea why one of the authors does such silly speculations. 

Whatsoever … there was once a giant parrot rumbling the forests of new Zealand around 19 Million years ago, and that is remarkable enough, at least for me.

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References:

[1] Trevor H. Worthy; Suzanne J. Hand; Michael Archer; R. Paul Scofield; Vanessa L. De Pietri

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I need to write some kind of update here since the British- but also the German press apparently need to call this new species a “Cannibal” and a “Horror-Papagei”, and even claim that some scientist allegedly has suggested that this parrot was eating its smaller conspecific mates.  

What a big load of shit, let’s say it together: “SHIT!!!” Which fucking scientist, as they claim, has ever said such a bullshit???  

This was, and I bet my left hand for that, a large kakapo, nothing but a harmless, flightless, vegetarian creature, and the press apparently degenerates more and more to a shitpot full of idiots and arseholes.  

Many Thanks!

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edited: 07.08.2019; 08.08.2019

The fossil record of birds from the James Ross Basin, West Antarctica

You may know that I’m a bit obsessed with the birds of the Paleocene era, partly because we know so much of a nothing about them, especially about those from the Early Paleocene, the beginning of the „T-time“, the time immediately after the K/T extinction event.

Now, there’s now a new paper out that is somewhat a review of the birds that existed at around exactly this time, the K/T boundary … on the continent of Antarctica to be more precicely, but also beyond that time up to the Oligocene. [1]

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I have not yet read it completely, but since nearly all bird fossils from that area are limited to single bones or sometimes partial skeletons, it does not shed so much new light on the previous records.

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References:

[1] Carolina Acosta Hospitaleche; Piotr Jadwiszczak; Julia A. Clarke; Marcos Cenizo: The fossil record of birds from the James Ross Basin, West Antarctica. Advances in Polar science 30(3): 250-272. 2019

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edited: 25.07.2019

New Paleocene birds

There is a new paper out in which several new bird remains are described, however, unfortunately without describing any species because these remains are just too fragmentary. The remains themselves descent from the Middle Paleocene of Belgium and from the Late Paleocene of France.

There’s a very small Gastornis sp., a lithornithid, a ralloid, and a unassignable „higher landbird“ all from Belgium, and there are another lithornithid, an pelagornithid, a possible leptosomatiform and a probable cariamaform all from France.

Well, and that’s almost all.

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References:

[1] Gerald Mayr; Thierry Smith: New Paleocene bird fossils from the North Sea Basin in Belgium and France. Geologica Belgica 22(1-2): 35-46. 2019

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edited: 21.07.2019

Jurassic Bird – Alcmonavis poeschli Rauhut, Tischlinger & Foth

Having just been described, this new bird is known only from wing elements so far, which, in shape, at least for my eyes, are very similar to those of Archaeopteryx albersdoerferi Kundrát et al. and Wellnhoferia grandis Elżanowski in shape, or maybe even more similar to that of Jeholornis prima Zhou & Zhang from China.

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The ’new‘ bird lived at what was the Solnhofen Archipelago back then about 150 million years ago, alongside the more famous Archaeopterygidae, but apparently was not a close relative of them.

The few bones known so far show that the bird apparently was better adapted for flying than the contemporaneous archaeopterygian birds, but besides this it superficially might have looked very similar to them in life.

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Up to now only the remains of a single arm, respectively wing, are known – let’s hope there’s more to come.

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References:

[1] Oliver W. M. Rauhut; Helmut Tischlinger; Christian Foth: A non-archaeopterygid avialan theropod from the Late Jurassic of southern Germany eLife DOI: 10.7554/eLife.43789.001. 2019 

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edited: 15.05.2019

The rail that (not) existed two times

During the last few days the online newspapers were trying to outdo each other with silly headlines, headlines like … :   

The bird that came back from the dead” or: “Extinct species of bird came back from the dead, scientists find” or, the worst of them all: “Scientists discover bird that came back from the dead – A species which became extinct 136,000 years ago in a rare flood on an Indian Ocean atoll has now re-emerged in the same place“  

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What is wrong with that?  

Well, a lot, but let’s just start with the statement that their isn’t any species that really goes extinct and then comes back, also not a rail species!  

We actually deal with two distinct species here, or let’s rather say, with two distinct taxa, since they may not be species but subspecies.  

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May I introduce the White-throated Rail (Dryolimnas cuvieri (Pucheran)), a very beautiful rail species that is endemic to the island of Madagascar and that apparently has also colonized the island of Mayotte northeast of Madagascar.    

Photo: Bernard Dupont  

(under creative commons license (2.0)) 
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0 

This species obviously is the source of several other flightless species and subspecies that are known to have existed on many of the islands around Madagascar, such forms are known from the islands of Mauritius and Réunion west of Madagascar and others from some of the atolls that belong to the Seychelles north of Madagascar, including the Aldabra atoll.  

And the Aldabra atoll in fact is the only place where such a flightless form (subspecies or species if you want) still survives until today, this is the Aldabra Rail (Dryolimnas (cuvieri ssp.) aldabranus (Günther)).  

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Long time ago, some White-throated Rails for which reason ever, took a flight to the atoll to find it uninhabited (by rails) and decided to stay there … over time the rails that were born on this predator-free island stopped using their wings and their descendants again finally became completely flightless.  

But then the Aldabra atoll just disappeared due to total inundation in the middle Pleistocene, about 340000 years before present, leading to the extinction of all endemic animals and plants, including this ‘First’ Aldabra Rails.  

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Then again, around 100000 years before present, the sea-level begun to sink and the Aldabra atoll reemerged.  

Again, some White-throated Rails left their home island of Madagascar and took a flight to the north to find a new home on the now rail-free Aldabra atoll, and the story took the same direction as thousands of years before, and the final result are the recent endemic, flightless Aldabra Rails that one can see when visiting the atoll.  

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So, the Aldabra atoll was inhabited by two distinct lineages of flightless rails at two different times in history, respectively prehistory, that, despite both descenting from one and the same ancestor species, still represent two completely distinct forms, whether they are referred to as subspecies or as species.  

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References:  

[1] Julian P. Hume; David Martill: Repeated evolution of flightlessness in dryolimnas rails (Aves: Rallidae) after extinction and recolonization on Aldabra. Zoolocigal Journal of the linnean Society 20: 1-7. 2019  

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edited: 10.05.2019

Prehistoric Gambier Islands

A new paper, that was just published [1], deals with the subfossil remains that had been excavated on the Gambier Islands far, far in the almost easternmost corner of Polynesia, more easterly are only the Pitcairn Islands and the well known Rapa Nui.

The Gambier Islands, for those who don’t know them, are basically a more or less sunken atoll, a so called ‚almost atoll‘ like the better known Aitutaki atoll in the Cook Islands. This ‚almost atoll‘ consists of a larger but still relatively small main island, Mangareva, and several other smaller islets surounding it, all of them of volcanic origin and merely the meager remains of a former large volcano. The whole group of islands is encircled by a fringe of coral islands, which again are formed by lifted coral reefs. There are some other real atolls (only coral islands without remains of former volcanoes) that belong to the Gambier group, these are Maria (Est), Marutea (Sud), Matureivavao, Morane, Temoe, Tenararo, Tenarunga, Vahanga.

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The authors describe one new species, a pigeon, and mention several others, mostly pigeons and of course seabirds, we are on a island group here after all.   😛

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The first surprise is Bountyphaps, very likely the same Bountyphaps obsoleta Worthy & Wragg that was originally described from Henderson Island, Pitcairn Islands. Its remains were found on Kamaka Island, one of the numerous small or very small islands within the group. The remains are interpreted as probably having been transported from the Pitcairn Islands to the Gambiers by Polynesian settlers, which indeed are known to have captured and tamed parrots and pigeons, at least in olden times when there still were parrots and pigeons to be found.

The next bird is the newly described pigeon species, Ducula tihonireasini Rigal, Kirch & Worthy, its remains were found on Taravai Island, the second largest of the islands in the group, and it probably was endemic to the Gambier Islands.

Then there are a Ptilinopus sp. which may be identical to the Atoll Fruit-Dove (Ptilinopus coralensis Peale), and a Columbidae gen. & sp., probably Macropygia sp., which would extend the distributional area of that genus far to the east and to the south.

There are of course remains of the Pacific Reef Egret (Egretta sacra ssp. sacra (Gmelin)), the most common land bird in whole Polynesia today.

And off we go to the seabirds, here we have the remains of Red- and White-tailed Tropicbirds, a rather small Pseudobulweria sp., apparently also a new species, three unspecified Pterodroma spp., three Puffinus spp., the Wedge-tailed Shearwater, the Polynesian Storm-Petrel, the Great- and the Lesser Frigatebird, the White Tern, and finally another tern, probably the Blue Noddy.

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All of these birds are known to have occurred on the Gambier Islands at least since 2005 when their first remains were found (except for Bountyphaps obsoleta, whose remains were wrongly assigned to another pigeon species, Alopecoenas nui (Steadman)). But only now their subfossil bones were scientifically investigated.

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References:

[1] Stanislas Rigal; Patrick V. Kirch; Trevor H. Worthy: New prehistoric avifaunas from the Gambier Group, French Polynesia. Palaeontologia Electronica 21.3.4A 1-35. 2018

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edited: 07.12.2018

Hurra!

The family Aepyornithidae has finally been revised properly!   🙂

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Up to 15 species were accepted for some time, after the last revision about 50 years [!] ago, there were only seven species left.:

Aepyornis gracilis Monnier
Aepyornis hildebrandti Burckhardt
Aepyornis maximus Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire
Aepyornis medius Milne-Edwards & Grandidier

Mullerornis agilis Milne-Edwards & Grandidier
Mullerornis betsilei Milne-Edwards & Grandidier
Mullerornis rudis Milne-Edwards & Grandidier

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And now, after the latest revision [1] only four species are left, and one of them is transferred into a new genus.:

Aepyornis hildebrandti Burckhardt
Aepyornis maximus Geoffroy Saint Hilaire

Mullerornis modestus (Milne-Edwards & Grandidier)

Vorombe titan (Andrews)

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References:

[1] James P. Hansford; Samuel T. Turvey: Unexpected diversity within the extinct elephant birds (Aves: Aepyornithidae) and a new identity fort he world’s largest birds. Royal Society Open Science, 2018; 5(9): 181295 DOI: 10.1098/rsos.181295

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edited: 27.09.2018

Say >Hello< to New Zealand’s newest bird species!

The Whenua Hou Diving Petrel was named after Whenua Hou [Codfish Island] a small island offshore the northwest coast of Stewart Island, New Zealand, where now the last remaining breeding population of this species, some 150 individuals at the most, remains.

The species did once breed on other New Zealand islands as well, including Dundas Island and Enderby Island (Auckland Islands), the Chatham Islands, South Island, and Stewart Island. It may also have bred on Macquarie Island.

The birds of that population are just now recognized as a distinct species, differing from the South Georgia Diving Petrel (Pelecanoides georgicus Murphy & Harper), with which they were until recently considered conspecific, and even consubspecific [if such a word exists] since this species was thought to be monotypic.

The Whenua Hou Diving Petrel can be distinguished from the South Georgia birds by several external features, especially by its more contrasting plumage.

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Photo: TheyLookLikeUs

(under creative commons license (4.0))
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0

Unfortunately all sea bird species are more or less threated with extinction right now, mainly because of the increasing plastic pollution of the world’s oceans.

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References:

[1] Johannes H. Fischer, Igor Debski, Colin M. Miskelly, Charles A. Bost, Aymeric Fromant, Alan J. D. Tennyson, Jake Tessler, Rosalind Cole, Johanna H. Hiscock, Graeme A. Taylor, Heiko U. Wittmer: Analyses of phenotypic differentiations among South Georgian Diving Petrel (Pelecanoides georgicus) populations reveal an undescribed and highly endangered species from New Zealand. PLoS ONE 13(6): e0197766. 2018

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edited: 28.06.2018