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TAKAHE & MOHO



Takahe are here again. Matt Troutman wrote...

>  Interestingly, _P. mantelli_ was originally a fossil species 
> by Richard Owen from a fossil skull and was named Notornis 
> mantelli.  Later, a live _"N". mantelli_ was found, and 
> recently it was sunk down into Porphyrio.  

The situation with the flightless New Zealand species of _Porphyrio_ 
has turned out to be more complicated than that, and there are 
actually two distinct species, apparently derived from different 
volant ancestors. There is no evidence that the two are closer to 
each other than either is to _P. porphyrio_, so there is no 
justification for a monophyletic _Notornis_ (nor are either really 
different enough to deserve their own genus, but clearly this is 
subjective).

However, _P. mantelli_ Owen  - the Moho of North Island 
(confusingly, both North and South Island flightless _Porphyrio_ 
have been referred to as Takahe)  - is extinct, and known only from 
fossils. Phillipps (1959 I think) referred to a sighting of a rallid 
made on North Island in 1894, and it has been suggested that this was 
a live _P. mantelli_. This sounds like cryptozoology to me, but 
Trewick (1996) took it seriously enough to mention it in his paper. 

Distinct from _P. mantelli_ is _P. hochstetteri_ Meyer, the extant 
South Island bird we recognise as the Takahe. Things are actually 
more complicated than I have indicated here, and both species have a 
long and confusing nomenclatural history. It is all sorted out in 
Trewick's 1996 paper, published in _Journal of Zoology_ 238: 221-237.

"But I hate football Stu. It's rubbish"

DARREN NAISH
darren.naish@port.ac.uk