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TWO TAKAHE SPECIES



Hello everyone,

Those of you interested in extant dinosaurs might be interested to hear of S.A.
Trewick's work, published in the Feb '96 ish of Journal of Zoology. Trewick
looked at the osteometric data supplied by modern and Quaternary takahe bones
and has concluded that the two morphs represented _are_ different species:
_Porphyrio mantelli_ (Owen) and _P. hochstetteri_ (Meyer). 

Of course, that there are two species is the 'old' view - yet again naturalists
from the last century have been vindicated by at least one researcher (same
goes, incidentally, for warthogs, tuatara, common dolphins and a rediscovered
SE Asian pig amongst others) [please refrain from carrying this to its logical
extreme: namely, that *all* sunk taxa could turn out to be valid!].

Extremely interesting is Trewick's assertion that the two species evolved
independently from volant invaders (these critters are on New Zealand if you
don't know). _P. hochstetteri_ is the extant species, while _mantelli_ is 'known
only from Quaternary fossil bones'. A snippet for the cryptozoologists though:
'... a single tantalizing observation in the North Island in 1894 (of a _P.
mantelli_) is recorded by Phillipps (1959)' [p. 222]. 

That ornithologists would now have to call living takahe _P. hochstetteri_ might
cause some setbacks in the acceptance of all this. In any case, the taxonomic
history of the living takahe becomes even more convoluted: this is now a fossil
species, found alive, thought extinct, rediscovered, confused with an extinct
relative, lost to science again, rediscovered again, given a different name...
or something like that.

"Old man Peabody owned all this land, had this crazy idea about.... breeding
pines"

DARREN NAISH