Miocene fossils show that kiwi (Apteryx, Apterygidae) are probably not phyletic dwarves

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Worthy, Trevor
Worthy, Jennifer P
Tennyson, Alan J D
Salisbury, Steven W
Hand, Suzanne J
Scofield, R Paul
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Verlag Naturhistorisches Museum Wien
Copyright © Verlag Naturhistorisches Museum Wien, 2013
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Verlag Naturhistorisches Museum Wien
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.
Copyright 2013 © Verlag Naturhistorisches Museum. Published version of the paper reproduced here with permission from the publisher. Publisher website: http://www.nhm-wien.ac.at/
Worthy, T.H., J.P. Worthy, A.J.D. Tennyson, S.W. Salisbury, S.J. Hand, R.P. Scofield, 2013. Miocene fossils show that kiwi (Apteryx, Apterygidae) are probably not phyletic dwarves. Pp 63–80, In Göhlich, U.B. & Kroh, A. (eds): Paleornithological Research 2013 – Proceedings of the 8th International Meeting of the Society of Avian Paleontology and Evolution. p. 63-80, Vienna (Natural History Museum Vienna).