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New Miocene presbyornithid Wilaru prideauxi



A new paper published last week. Considering it has implications for
the phylogenetic position of the Cretaceous bird Teviornis, I supposed
that it counts as borderline Mesozoic dinosaur news. Thanks to John
D'Angelo for bringing it to my attention.

V.L. De Pietri, R.P. Scofield, N. Zelenkov, W.E. Boles, and T.H. Worthy (2016)
The unexpected survival of an ancient lineage of anseriform birds into
the Neogene of Australia: the youngest record of Presbyornithidae
Royal Society Open Science 3: 150635
DOI: 10.1098/rsos.150635
https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=http-3A__&d=CwIFaQ&c=clK7kQUTWtAVEOVIgvi0NU5BOUHhpN0H8p7CSfnc_gI&r=x82f3Wlkwtmbr1z8IAt9jA&m=dWEWnsyUV2dcqvF9dX_-wAtMpP69nGx0QdO5xvPB_es&s=kH9k9WMTWLNlef_xjkOnBwX0ljb86xEspqf28Huvp-w&e=
  rsos.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/3/2/150635

Presbyornithids were the dominant birds in Palaeogene lacustrine
assemblages, especially in the Northern Hemisphere, but are thought to
have disappeared worldwide by the mid-Eocene. Now classified within
Anseriformes (screamers, ducks, swans and geese), their relationships
have long been obscured by their strange wader-like skeletal
morphology. Reassessment of the late Oligocene South Australian
material attributed to Wilaru tedfordi, long considered to be of a
stone-curlew (Burhinidae, Charadriiformes), reveals that this taxon
represents the first record of a presbyornithid in Australia. We also
describe the larger Wilaru prideauxi sp. nov. from the early Miocene
of South Australia, showing that presbyornithids survived in Australia
at least until ca 22 Ma. Unlike on other continents, where
presbyornithids were replaced by aquatic crown-group anatids (ducks,
swans and geese), species of Wilaru lived alongside these waterfowl in
Australia. The morphology of the tarsometatarsus of these species
indicates that, contrary to other presbyornithids, they were
predominantly terrestrial birds, which probably contributed to their
long-term survival in Australia. The morphological similarity between
species of Wilaru and the Eocene South American presbyornithid
Telmabates antiquus supports our hypothesis of a Gondwanan radiation
during the evolutionary history of the Presbyornithidae. Teviornis
gobiensis from the Late Cretaceous of Mongolia is here also reassessed
and confirmed as a presbyornithid. These findings underscore the
temporal continuance of Australia’s vertebrates and provide a new
context in which the phylogeny and evolutionary history of
presbyornithids can be examined.