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    Early cave art and ancient DNA record the origin of European bison
    (Nature Publishing Group, 2016-10-18) Soubrier, Julien; Gower, Graham; Chen, Kefei; Richards, Stephen M; Llamas, Bastien; Mitchell, Kieren J; Ho, Simon Y W; Kosintsev, Pavel; Lee, Michael S Y; Baryshnikov, Gennady; Bollongino, Ruth; Bover, Pere; Burger, Joachim; Chivall, David; Cregut-Bonnoure, Evelyne; Decker, JaredE; Doronichev, Vladimir B; Douka, Katerina; Fordham, Damien A; Fontana, Federica; Fritz, Carole; Glimmerveen, Jan; Golovanova, Liubov V; Groves, Colin; Guerreschi, Antonio; Haak, Wolfgang; Higham, Tom; Hofman-Kaminska, Emilia; Immel, Alexander; Julien, Marie-Anne; Krause, Johannes; Krotova, Oleksandra; Langbein, Frauke; Larson, Greger; Rohrlach, Adam; Scheu, Amelie; Schnabel, Robert D; Taylor, Jeremy F; Tokarska, Małgorzata; Tosello, Gilles; van der Plicht, Johannes; van Loenen, Ayla; Vigne, Jean-Denis; Wooley, Oliver; Orlando, Ludovic; Kowalczyk, Rafał; Shapiro, Beth; Cooper, Alan
    The two living species of bison (European and American) are among the few terrestrial megafauna to have survived the late Pleistocene extinctions. Despite the extensive bovid fossil record in Eurasia, the evolutionary history of the European bison (or wisent, Bison bonasus) before the Holocene (<11.7 thousand years ago (kya)) remains a mystery. We use complete ancient mitochondrial genomes and genome-wide nuclear DNA surveys to reveal that the wisent is the product of hybridization between the extinct steppe bison (Bison priscus) and ancestors of modern cattle (aurochs, Bos primigenius) before 120 kya, and contains up to 10% aurochs genomic ancestry. Although undetected within the fossil record, ancestors of the wisent have alternated ecological dominance with steppe bison in association with major environmental shifts since at least 55 kya. Early cave artists recorded distinct morphological forms consistent with these replacement events, around the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM, ∼21–18 kya).
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    The cranial endocast of Dipnorhynchus sussmilchi (Sarcopterygii: Dipnoi) and the interrelationships of stem-group lungfishes
    (PeerJ, 2016-10-20) Clement, Alice M; Challands, T J; Long, John A; Ahlberg, Per E
    The first virtual cranial endocast of a lungfish from the Early Devonian, Dipnorhynchus sussmilchi, is described. Dipnorhynchus, only the fourth Devonian lungfish for which a near complete cranial endocast is known, is a key taxon for clarifying primitive character states within the group. A ventrally-expanded telencephalic cavity is present in the endocast of Dipnorhynchus demonstrating that this is the primitive state for "true'' Dipnoi. Dipnorhynchus also possesses a utricular recess differentiated from the sacculolagenar pouch like that seen in stratigraphically younger lungfish (Dipterus, Chirodipterus, Rhinodipterus), but absent from the dipnomorph Youngolepis. We do not find separate pineal and para-pineal canals in contrast to a reconstruction from previous authors. We conduct the first phylogenetic analysis of Dipnoi based purely on endocast characters, which supports a basal placement of Dipnorhynchus within the dipnoan stem group, in agreement with recent analyses. Our analysis demonstrates the value of endocast characters for inferring phylogenetic relationships.
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    Early Gnathostome Phylogeny Revisited: Multiple Method Consensus
    (Public Library of Science, 2016) Qiao, Tuo; King, Benedict; Long, John A; Ahlberg, Per E; Zhu, Min
    A series of recent studies recovered consistent phylogenetic scenarios of jawed vertebrates, such as the paraphyly of placoderms with respect to crown gnathostomes, and antiarchs as the sister group of all other jawed vertebrates. However, some of the hylogenetic relationships within the group have remained controversial, such as the positions of Entelognathus, ptyctodontids, and the Guiyu-lineage that comprises Guiyu, Psarolepis and Achoania. The revision of the dataset in a recent study reveals a modified phylogenetic hypothesis, which shows that some of these phylogenetic conflicts were sourced from a few inadvertent miscodings. The interrelationships of early gnathostomes are addressed based on a combined new dataset with 103 taxa and 335 characters, which is the most comprehensive morphological dataset constructed to date. This dataset is investigated in a phylogenetic context using maximum parsimony (MP), Bayesian inference (BI) and maximum likelihood (ML) approaches in an attempt to explore the consensus and incongruence between the hypotheses of early gnathostome interrelationships recovered from different methods. Our findings consistently corroborate the paraphyly of placoderms, all `acanthodians' as a paraphyletic stem group of chondrichthyans, Entelognathus as a stem gnathostome, and the Guiyu-lineage as stem sarcopterygians. The incongruence using different methods is less significant than the consensus, and mainly relates to the positions of the placoderm Wuttagoonaspis, the stem chondrichthyan Ramirosuarezia, and the stem osteichthyan LophosteusÐthe taxa that are either poorly known or highly specialized in character complement. Given that the different performances of each phylogenetic approach, our study provides an empirical case that the multiple phylogenetic analyses of morphological data are mutually complementary rather than redundant.
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    A new method for reconstructing brain morphology: applying the brain-neurocranial spatial relationship in an extant lungfish to a fossil endocast
    (The Royal Society, 2016) Clement, Alice M; Strand, R; Nysjo, J; Long, John A; Ahlberg, Per E
    Lungfish first appeared in the geological record over 410 million years ago and are the closest living group of fish to the tetrapods. Palaeoneurological investigations into the group show that unlike numerous other fishes—but more similar to those in tetrapods—lungfish appear to have had a close fit between the brain and the cranial cavity that housed it. As such, researchers can use the endocast of fossil taxa (an internal cast of the cranial cavity) both as a source of morphological data but also to aid in developing functional and phylogenetic implications about the group. Using fossil endocast data from a three-dimensional-preserved Late Devonian lungfish from the Gogo Formation, Rhinodipterus, and the brain-neurocranial relationship in the extant Australian lungfish, Neoceratodus, we herein present the first virtually reconstructed brain of a fossil lungfish. Computed tomographic data and a newly developed ‘brain-warping’ method are used in conjunction with our own distance map software tool to both analyse and present the data. The brain reconstruction is adequate, but we envisage that its accuracy and wider application in other taxonomic groups will grow with increasing availability of tomographic datasets.
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    Climate change not to blame for late Quaternary megafauna extinctions in Australia
    (Nature Publishing Group, 2016) Saltre, Frederik; Rodriguez-Rey, M; Brook, Barry W; Johnson, Christopher N; Turney, Chris S M; Alroy, John; Cooper, Alan; Beeton, Nicholas; Bird, Michael I; Fordham, Damien A; Gillespie, Richard; Herrando-Perez, Salvador; Jacobs, Zenobia; Miller, Gifford H; Nogues-Bravo, David; Prideaux, Gavin John; Roberts, Richard Graham; Bradshaw, Corey J A
    Late Quaternary megafauna extinctions impoverished mammalian diversity worldwide. The causes of these extinctions in Australia are most controversial but essential to resolve, because this continent-wide event presaged similar losses that occurred thousands of years later on other continents. Here we apply a rigorous metadata analysis and new ensemble-hindcasting approach to 659 Australian megafauna fossil ages. When coupled with analysis of several high-resolution climate records, we show that megafaunal extinctions were broadly synchronous among genera and independent of climate aridity and variability in Australia over the last 120,000 years. Our results reject climate change as the primary driver of megafauna extinctions in the world’s most controversial context, and instead estimate that the megafauna disappeared Australia-wide ~13,500 years after human arrival, with shorter periods of coexistence in some regions. This is the first comprehensive approach to incorporate uncertainty in fossil ages, extinction timing and climatology, to quantify mechanisms of prehistorical extinctions.
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    Behaviour of the Pleistocene marsupial lion deduced from claw marks in a southwestern Australian cave
    (Nature Publishing Group, 2016) Arman, Samuel D; Prideaux, Gavin John
    The marsupial lion, Thylacoleo carnifex, was the largest-ever marsupial carnivore, and is one of the most iconic extinct Australian vertebrates. With a highly-specialised dentition, powerful forelimbs and a robust build, its overall morphology is not approached by any other mammal. However, despite >150 years of attention, fundamental aspects of its biology remain unresolved. Here we analyse an assemblage of claw marks preserved on surfaces in a cave and deduce that they were generated by marsupial lions. The distribution and skewed size range of claw marks within the cave elucidate two key aspects of marsupial lion biology: they were excellent climbers and reared young in caves. Scrutiny of >10,000 co-located Pleistocene bones reveals few if any marsupial lion tooth marks, which dovetails with the morphology-based interpretation of the species as a flesh specialist.
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    Osteology Supports a Stem-Galliform Affinity for the Giant Extinct Flightless Bird Sylviornis neocaledoniae (Sylviornithidae, Galloanseres)
    (Public Library of Science, 2016) Worthy, Trevor; Mitri, Miyess; Handley, Warren; Lee, Michael S Y; Anderson, Atholl; Sand, Christophe
    The giant flightless bird Sylviornis neocaledoniae (Aves: Sylviornithidae) existed on La Grande Terre and Ile des Pins, New Caledonia, until the late Holocene when it went extinct shortly after human arrival on these islands. The species was generally considered to be a megapode (Megapodiidae) until the family Sylviornithidae was erected for it in 2005 to reflect multiple cranial autapomorphies. However, despite thousands of bones having been reported for this unique and enigmatic taxon, the postcranial anatomy has remained largely unknown.We rectify this deficiency and describe the postcranial skeleton of S. neocaledoniae based on ~600 fossils and use data from this and its cranial anatomy to make a comprehensive assessment of its phylogenetic affinities. Sylviornis neocaledoniae is found to be a stem galliform, distant from megapodiids, and the sister taxon to the extinct flightless Megavitiornis altirostris from Fiji, which we transfer to the family Sylviornithidae. These two species form the sister group to extant crown-group galliforms. Several other fossil galloanseres also included in the phylogenetic analysis reveal novel hypotheses of their relationships as follows: Dromornis planei (Dromornithidae) is recovered as a stem galliform rather than a stem anseriform; Presbyornis pervetus (Presbyornithidae) is the sister group to Anseranatidae, not to Anatidae; Vegavis iaai is a crown anseriform but remains unresolved relative to Presbyornis pervetus, Anseranatidae and Anatidae. Sylviornis neocaledoniae was reconstructed herein to be 0.8 m tall in a resting stance and weigh 27–34 kg. The postcranial anatomy of S. neocaledoniae shows no indication of the specialised adaptation to digging seen in megapodiids, with for example, its ungual morphology differing little from that of chicken Gallus gallus. These observations and its phylogenetic placement as stem galliforms makes it improbable that this species employed ectothermic incubation or was a mound-builder. Sylviornis neocaledoniae can therefore be excluded as the constructor of tumuli in New Caledonia.
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    Getting to the heart of a good fossil
    (eLife Sciences Publications, 2016) Long, John A
    The discovery of perfectly preserved 113-119 million year old fossilised hearts in a Brazilian fish Rhacolepis has significant implications for palaeontology and comparative anatomy.
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    High-Resolution Coproecology: Using Coprolites to Reconstruct the Habits and Habitats of New Zealand’s Extinct Upland Moa (Megalapteryx didinus)
    (Public Library of Science, 2012) Wood, Jamie; Wilmshurst, Janet M; Wagstaff, Steven J; Worthy, Trevor; Rawlence, Nicolas J; Cooper, Alan
    Knowledge about the diet and ecology of extinct herbivores has important implications for understanding the evolution of plant defence structures, establishing the influences of herbivory on past plant community structure and composition, and identifying pollination and seed dispersal syndromes. The flightless ratite moa (Aves: Dinornithiformes) were New Zealand’s largest herbivores prior to their extinction soon after initial human settlement. Here we contribute to the knowledge of moa diet and ecology by reporting the results of a multidisciplinary study of 35 coprolites from a subalpine cave (Euphrates Cave) on the South Island of New Zealand. Ancient DNA analysis and radiocarbon dating revealed the coprolites were deposited by the extinct upland moa (Megalapteryx didinus), and span from at least 6,368631 until 694630 14C years BP; the approximate time of their extinction. Using pollen, plant macrofossil, and ancient DNA analyses, we identified at least 67 plant taxa from the coprolites, including the first evidence that moa fed on the nectar-rich flowers of New Zealand flax (Phormium) and tree fuchsia (Fuchsia excorticata). The plant assemblage from the coprolites reflects a highly-generalist feeding ecology for upland moa, including browsing and grazing across the full range of locally available habitats (spanning southern beech (Nothofagus) forest to tussock (Chionochloa) grassland). Intact seeds in the coprolites indicate that upland moa may have been important dispersal agents for several plant taxa. Plant taxa with putative anti-browse adaptations were also identified in the coprolites. Clusters of coprolites (based on pollen assemblages, moa haplotypes, and radiocarbon dates), probably reflect specimens deposited at the same time by individual birds, and reveal the necessity of suitably large sample sizes in coprolite studies to overcome potential biases in diet interpretation.
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    Ancient DNA Analyses Reveal Contrasting Phylogeographic Patterns amongst Kiwi (Apteryx spp.) and a Recently Extinct Lineage of Spotted Kiwi
    (Public Library of Science, 2012) Shepherd, Lara D; Worthy, Trevor; Tennyson, Alan J D; Scofield, R Paul; Ramstad, Kristina M; Lambert, David M
    The little spotted kiwi (Apteryx owenii) is a flightless ratite formerly found throughout New Zealand but now greatly reduced in distribution. Previous phylogeographic studies of the related brown kiwi (A. mantelli, A. rowi and A. australis), with which little spotted kiwi was once sympatric, revealed extremely high levels of genetic structuring, with mitochondrial DNA haplotypes often restricted to populations. We surveyed genetic variation throughout the present and pre-human range of little spotted kiwi by obtaining mitochondrial DNA sequences from contemporary and ancient samples. Little spotted kiwi and great spotted kiwi (A. haastii) formed a monophyletic clade sister to brown kiwi. Ancient samples of little spotted kiwi from the northern North Island, where it is now extinct, formed a lineage that was distinct from remaining little spotted kiwi and great spotted kiwi lineages, potentially indicating unrecognized taxonomic diversity. Overall, little spotted kiwi exhibited much lower levels of genetic diversity and structuring than brown kiwi, particularly through the South Island. Our results also indicate that little spotted kiwi (or at least hybrids involving this species) survived on the South Island mainland until more recently than previously thought.
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    Fish remains, mostly otoliths, from the non-marine Early Miocene of Otago, New Zealand
    (Polskiej Akademii Nauk, Instytut Paleobiologii (Polish Academy of Sciences, Institue of Paleobiology), 2012) Schwarzhans, Werner; Scofield, R Paul; Tennyson, Alan J D; Worthy, Jennifer P; Worthy, Trevor
    Fish remains described from the early Miocene lacustrine Bannockburn Formation of Central Otago, New Zealand, con− sist of several thousand otoliths and one skeleton plus another disintegrated skull. One species, Mataichthys bictenatus Schwarzhans, Scofield, Tennyson, and T. Worthy gen. et sp. nov., an eleotrid, is established on a skeleton with otoliths in situ. The soft embedding rock and delicate, three−dimensionally preserved fish bones were studied by CT−scanning tech− nology rather than physical preparation, except where needed to extract the otolith. Fourteen species of fishes are de− scribed, 12 new to science and two in open nomenclature, representing the families Galaxiidae (Galaxias angustiventris, G. bobmcdowalli, G. brevicauda, G. papilionis, G. parvirostris, G. tabidus), Retropinnidae (Prototroctes modestus, P. vertex), and Eleotridae (Mataichthys bictenatus, M. procerus, M. rhinoceros, M. taurinus). These findings prove that most of the current endemic New Zealand/southern Australia freshwater fish fauna was firmly established in New Zea− land as early as 19–16 Ma ago. Most fish species indicate the presence of large fishes, in some cases larger than Recent species of related taxa, for instance in the eleotrid genus Mataichthys when compared to the extant Gobiomorphus. The finding of a few otoliths from marine fishes corroborates the age determination of the Bannockburn Formation as the Altonian stage of the New Zealand marine Tertiary stratigraphy.
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    Ancient DNA reveals elephant birds and kiwi are sister taxa and clarifies ratite bird evolution
    (American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2014-05-23) Mitchell, Kieren J; Llamas, Bastien; Soubrier, Julien; Rawlence, Nicolas J; Worthy, Trevor; Wood, Jamie; Lee, Michael S Y; Cooper, Alan
    The evolution of the ratite birds has been widely attributed to vicariant speciation, driven by the Cretaceous breakup of the supercontinent Gondwana. The early isolation of Africa and Madagascar implies that the ostrich and extinct Madagascan elephant birds (Aepyornithidae) should be the oldest ratite lineages. We sequenced the mitochondrial genomes of two elephant birds and performed phylogenetic analyses, which revealed that these birds are the closest relatives of the New Zealand kiwi and are distant from the basal ratite lineage of ostriches. This unexpected result strongly contradicts continental vicariance and instead supports flighted dispersal in all major ratite lineages. We suggest that convergence toward gigantism and flightlessness was facilitated by early Tertiary expansion into the diurnal herbivory niche after the extinction of the dinosaurs.
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    Is the “Genyornis” egg of a mihirung or another extinct bird from the Australian dreamtime?
    (Elsevier, 2016-02-01) Grellet-Tinner, G; Spooner, N A; Worthy, Trevor
    The iconic Australian Genyornis newtoni (Dromornithidae, Aves) is the sole Pleistocene member of an avian clade now hypothesized to be alternatively in Anseriformes or the sister group of crown Galloanseres. A distinctive type of fossil eggshell commonly found in eroding sand dunes, has been referred to Genyornis newtoni since the 1980s. The 126 by 97 mm Spooner Egg, dated at 54.7 ± 3.1 ka by optical dating of its enclosing sediments, is a complete specimen of this eggshell type that was reconstructed from fragments of a broken egg. We show that the size of the eggs from which this ‘Genyornis’ eggshell derives, either as predicted from measurements of fragments, or as indicated by the Spooner Egg, is unexpectedly small given the size of G. newtoni, which has an estimated mass of 275 kg, or about seven times the mass of the emu that has a similar sized egg. We compared the microstructure of the putative Genyornis eggshell to that of other dromornithids and a range of galloanseriform taxa using several microcharacterisation techniques. The ‘Genyornis’ eggshell displays a mosaic of oological characters that do not unambiguously support referral to any known modern bird. Its shell structure, coupled with chemical compounds in the accessory layer, makes it unlikely to have been laid by a dromornithid, whereas several characters support a megapode origin. A potential candidate for the bird that laid the putative ‘Genyornis’ eggs in the Pleistocene fossil avifaunal record has been ignored: Progura, a genus of extinct giant megapodes, whose species were widespread in Australia. Regression of egg size of megapodes and body mass shows that the Spooner Egg approximates the expected size for eggs laid by species of Progura. We advance the suggestion that the fossil eggshell hitherto referred to Genyornis newtoni, is more likely to have been laid by species of the giant extinct Progura. As megapodes, the species of Progura were obligate ectothermic incubators, which we suggest laid their eggs into a hole dug in sand like the modern megapode Macrocephalon maleo, thus explaining the abundant ‘Genyornis’ eggshell in sand dunes. Referral of this eggshell to Progura means that the fossil record of Genyornis newtoni is limited to bones and the timing of the extinction of this last dromornithid is unknown. In addition, structural similarities of eggshell in megapodes, the putative Genyornis eggshell and dromornithids, raise the possibility that these taxa are phylogenetically more closely related to each other than any is to anseriforms. Specifically, this means that dromornithids might be a sister group to galliforms rather than to or within anseriforms.
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    Miocene fossils show that kiwi (Apteryx, Apterygidae) are probably not phyletic dwarves
    (Verlag Naturhistorisches Museum Wien, 2013) Worthy, Trevor; Worthy, Jennifer P; Tennyson, Alan J D; Salisbury, Steven W; Hand, Suzanne J; Scofield, R Paul
    Until now, kiwi (Apteryx, Apterygidae) have had no pre-Quaternary fossil record to inform on the timing of their arrival in New Zealand or on their inter-ratite relationships. Here we describe two fossils in a new genus of apterygid from Early Miocene sediments at St Bathans, Central Otago, minimally dated to 19–16 Ma. The new fossils indicate a markedly smaller and possibly volant bird, supporting a possible overwater dispersal origin to New Zealand of kiwi independent of moa. If the common ancestor of this early Miocene apterygid species and extant kiwi was similarly small and volant, then the phyletic dwarfing hypothesis to explain relatively small body size of kiwi compared with other ratites is incorrect. Apteryx includes five extant species distributed on North, South, Stewart and the nearshore islands of New Zealand. They are nocturnal, flightless and comparatively large birds, 1–3 kg, with morphological attributes that reveal an affinity with ratites, but others, such as their long bill, that differ markedly from all extant members of that clade. Although kiwi were long considered most closely related to sympatric moa (Dinornithiformes), all recent analyses of molecular data support a closer affinity to Australian ratites (Casuariidae). Usually assumed to have a vicariant origin in New Zealand (ca 80–60 Ma), a casuariid sister group relationship for kiwi, wherein the common ancestor was volant, would more easily allow a more recent arrival via overwater dispersal.
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    A Plains-wanderer (Pedionomidae) that did not wander plains: a new species from the Oligocene of South Australia
    (John Wiley & Sons, inc., 2014-11-03) De Pietri, Vanessa L; Camens, Aaron; Worthy, Trevor
    The remarkable fauna of Australia evolved in isolation from other landmasses for millions of years, yet understanding the evolutionary history of endemic avian lineages on the continent is confounded by the ability of birds to disperse over geographical barriers even after vicariance events. The Plains-wanderer Pedionomus torquatus (Charadriiformes) is an enigmatic, predominantly sedentary, quail-like bird that occurs exclusively in sparse native grasslands of south-eastern Australia. It is the only known species of its family (Pedionomidae), and its closest relatives are the South American seedsnipes (Thinocoridae). Here we describe a further representative of this lineage, Oligonomus milleri gen. et sp. nov. from the Late Oligocene of South Australia (26–24 Ma), which predates the earliest record of P. torquatus by ca. 22 Ma and attests to the presence of this lineage during Australia's period of isolation (50-15 Ma). Based on the morphology of the coracoid and the palynological record, we propose that O. milleri and P. torquatus were ecologically disparate taxa, and that similar to coeval marsupials, O. milleri inhabited well-wooded habitats, suggesting that the preference for grassland in the extant P. torquatus and thinocorids is likely convergent and not ancestral. The speciation event leading to the evolution of the extant Plains-wanderer was probably triggered by the spread of grasslands across Australia in the Late Miocene-Pliocene, which this record predates. The presence of a pedionomid in the Late Oligocene of Australia strengthens the hypothesis of a Gondwanan divergence of the lineages giving rise to Thinocoridae and Pedionomidae.
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    Wading a lost southern connection: Miocene fossils from New Zealand reveal a new lineage of shorebirds (Charadriiformes) linking Gondwanan avifaunas
    (Taylor & Francis, 2015-10-13) De Pietri, Vanessa L; Scofield, R Paul; Tennyson, Alan J D; Hand, Suzanne J; Worthy, Trevor
    An endemic and previously unknown lineage of shorebirds (Charadriiformes: Scolopaci) is described from early Miocene (19 16 Ma) deposits of New Zealand. 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
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    Avifauna from the Teouma Lapita Site, Efate Island, Vanuatu, Including a New Genus and Species of Megapode
    (University of Hawaii Press, 2015) Worthy, Trevor; Hawkins, Stuart; Bedford, Stuart; Spriggs, Matthew
    The avifauna of the Teouma archaeological site on Efate in Vanuatu is described. It derives from the Lapita levels (3,000 – 2,800 ybp) and immedi-ately overlying middens extending to ∼2,500 ybp. A total of 30 bird species is represented in the 1,714 identiï¬ ed specimens. Twelve species are new records for the island, which, added to previous records, indicates that minimally 39 land birds exclusive of passerines were in the original avifauna. Three-fourths of the 12 newly recorded species appear to have become extinct by the end of Lapita times, 2,800 ybp. The avifauna is dominated by eight species of columbids (47.5% Minimum Number Individuals [MNI ]) including a large extinct tooth-billed pigeon, Didunculus placopedetes from Tonga, and a giant Ducula sp. cf. D. goliath from New Caledonia. Seabirds are rare despite the coastal location of the site. Fowl are important contributors to the Teouma avifauna, with the human-introduced Red Junglefowl Gallus gallus accounting for 15% MNI and present in all sampled layers. There are two species of megapodes (∼10% of MNI ), with the extant Vanuatu Megapode Megapodius layardi most abundant and represented at all levels in the deposits. A substantially larger extinct megapode, Mwalau walter-linii, n. gen., n. sp., is present only in the Lapita midden area, where it is rela-tively rare. This extinct species was larger than all extant megapodes but smaller than the extinct Progura gallinacea from Australia, with proportions most similar to those of Alectura, and was a volant bird. The remaining signiï¬ cant faunal component is rails, with four species present, of which Porphyrio melanotus was the most abundant. Rare but notable records include an undescribed large rail; a parrot, Eclectus sp. cf. E. infectus; a hornbill, Rhyticeros sp. cf. R. plicatus; and a coucal, Centropus sp. indet., all conservatively considered likely to be conspeciï¬ c with known taxa elsewhere in Melanesia.
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    A new species of Oligo-Miocene darter (Aves: Anhingidae) from Australia
    (Central Ornithology Publication Office, 2012) Worthy, Trevor
    A single fossil tarsometatarsus from the Etadunna Formation, of Late Oligocene–Early Miocene age, at the Snake Dam Locality in South Australia reveals the ï¬ rst pre-Pliocene record of anhingids in Australia. Anhinga walterbolesi sp. nov. provides the oldest record globally for the Anhingidae and, with the contemporary presence of stem-group phalacrocoracids in the same formation, indicates a probable Early Oligocene to Eocene age for the common ancestor of anhingids and phalacrocoracids.
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    A Megafauna’s Microfauna: Gastrointestinal Parasites of New Zealand’s Extinct Moa (Aves: Dinornithiformes)
    (Public Library of Science, 2013) Wood, Jamie; Wilmshurst, Janet M; Rawlence, Nicolas J; Bonner, Karen I; Worthy, Trevor; Kinsella, John M; Cooper, Alan
    We perform the first multidisciplinary study of parasites from an extinct megafaunal clade using coprolites from the New Zealand moa (Aves: Dinornithiformes). Ancient DNA and microscopic analyses of 84 coprolites deposited by four moa species (South Island giant moa, Dinornis robustus; little bush moa, Anomalopteryx didiformis; heavy-footed moa, Pachyornis elephantopus; and upland moa, Megalapteryx didinus) reveal an array of gastrointestinal parasites including coccidians (Cryptosporidium and members of the suborder Eimeriorina), nematodes (Heterakoidea, Trichostrongylidae, Trichinellidae) and a trematode (Echinostomida). Parasite eggs were most prevalent and diverse in coprolites from lowland sites, where multiple sympatric moa species occurred and host density was therefore probably higher. Morphological and phylogenetic evidence supports a possible vicariant Gondwanan origin for some of the moa parasites. The discovery of apparently hostspecific parasite taxa suggests paleoparasitological studies of megafauna coprolites may provide useful case-studies of coextinction.