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Australo-Papuan treecreepers (Passeriformes: Climacteridae) and a new species of sittella (Neosittidae: Daphoenositta)from the Miocene of Australia

Jacqueline M. T. Nguyen

Plain Language Abstract

This study describes the oldest known fossils of sittellas and Australo-Papuan treecreepers, two unrelated groups of songbirds that climb tree trunks for food. Sittellas spiral up and down tree trunks and along branches, whereas treecreepers climb from the bottom to the top of trees only. One of the fossils described in this study represents a new species of sittella, named Daphoenositta trevorworthyi, that lived about 10-16 million years ago and was much larger than its living relatives. Daphoenositta trevorworthyi and the fossil treecreepers are known from leg bones that were discovered in the Riversleigh World Heritage Area in Australia. Riversleigh is one of the richest and most important fossil sites in Australia, and has produced thousands of fossils of ancient mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Much is known about the ancient mammals that lived at Riversleigh, but these fossil songbirds are some of the very few known from this time period throughout Australia. The Riversleigh fossils add to our understanding of the evolutionary history of songbirds, which represent more than half of all living bird species and are thought to have originated in the Southern Hemisphere.

Resumen en Español

Agateadores australo-papúes (Passeriformes: Climacteridae) y una nueva especie de sitela (Neosittidae: Daphoenositta) del Mioceno de Australia

Las sitelas (Neosittidae) y los agateadores australo-papúes (Climacteridae) son aves paseriformes arborícolas exclusivas de la región de Australasia. Se describe una nueva especie de sitela, Daphoenositta trevorworthyi sp. nov., a partir de un tibiotarso distal de los depósitos del Mioceno medio de Riversleigh World Heritage Area en el noroeste de Queensland, Australia. Este tibiotarso distal es considerablemente mayor que los de las sitelas actuales y muestra marcas de predación. Los tibiotarsos de los depósitos del Mioceno temprano en Riversleigh son atribuídos a los géneros modernos de Climacteridae Cormobates y Climacteris. Estos fósiles proporcionan los primeros registros pre-pleistocenos de estas familias y géneros existentes. Los tibiotarsos de Daphoenositta trevorworthyi sp. nov. y los Climacteridae fósiles comparten varias características que se asocian con el hábito de escalar troncos de árboles. Estas características también están presentes en sus congéneres actuales y en paseriformes arborícolas no relacionados. El registro fósil australiano emergente sugiere que esta región jugó un papel central en la historia evolutiva de los paseriformes, es decir, la radiación aviar más grande ocurrida.

Palabras clave: paseriformes; pájaros; nuevas especie; Mioceno; Riversleigh; Australia

Traducción: Enrique Peñalver

Résumé en Français

Des échelets australo-papous (Passeriformes : Climacteridae) et une nouvelle espèce de néositte (Neosittidae : Daphoenositta) du Miocène d'Australie

Les néosittes (Neosittidae) et les échelets australo-papous (Climacteridae) sont des oiseaux passereaux grimpeurs qui n'existent que dans la région australasienne. Une nouvelle espèce de néositte, Daphoenositta trevorworthyi sp. nov., est décrite d'après un tibiotarse distal provenant de dépôts du Miocène moyen de la « Riversleigh World Heritage Area » au nord-ouest du Queensland, Australie. Ce tibiotarse distal est considérablement plus grand que ceux des néosittes actuelles et montre des traces de prédation. Des tibiotarses des dépôts du Miocène ancien à Riversleigh sont attribués aux genres actuels de climactéridés Cormobates et Climacteris. Ces fossiles fournissent les premières occurrences de ces genres et familles actuels antérieures au Pléistocène. Les tibiotarses de Daphoenositta trevorworthyi sp. nov. et des climactéridés fossiles partagent plusieurs caractéristiques associées avec l'action de grimper le long des troncs d'arbres. Ces caractéristiques sont également présentes chez les espèces actuelles étroitement apparentées et chez d'autres passereaux grimpeurs sans lien de parenté proche. Ce nouveau registre fossile australien suggère que cette région a joué un rôle central dans l'histoire évolutive des Passeriformes, la radiation d'oiseaux la plus importante du monde.

Mots-clés : Passeriformes ; oiseaux ; nouvelle espèce ; Miocène ; Riversleigh ; Australie

Translator: Antoine Souron

Deutsche Zusammenfassung

Austral-Papuanische Baumläufer (Passeriformes: Climacteridae) und eine neue Sitella-Art (Neosittidae: Daphoenositta) aus dem Miozän von Australien

Sittellas (Neosittidae) und Austral-Papuanische Baumläufer (Climacteridae) sind scansorische Sperlingsvögel, die einzigartig in Australasien sind. Eine neue Sittella-Art, Daphoenositta trevorworthyi sp. nov.,ist beschrieben anhand eines Tibiotarsus aus dem mittleren Miozän von der Riversleigh Welterbestätte im nordwestlichen Queensland, Australien. Dieser distale Tibiotarsus ist wesentlich größer als bei heutigen Sitellas und zeigt Spuren von Prädation. Tibiotarsi aus frühmiozänen Ablagerungen in Riversleigh werden den heutigen climacteriden Gattungen Cormobates und Climacteris zugeschrieben. Diese Fossilien stellen die ersten prä-pleistozänen Nachweise dieser heutigen Familien und Gattungen. Die Tibiotarsi von Daphoenositta trevorworthyi sp. nov. und den fossilen Climacteriden teilen einige Merkmale die mit dem Klettern auf Baumstümpfen zusammen hängen. Diese Merkmale zeigen auch ihre heutigen Congenere und die nicht verwandten scansorischen Sperlingsvögel. Der aufkommende australische Fossilnachweis deutet darauf hin, dass diese Region eine zentrale Rolle in der Evolutionsgeschichte der Passeriformes, der weltweit größten Vogelradiation, gespielt hat.

Schlüsselwörter: Passeriformes; Vogel; neue Art; Miozän; Riversleigh; Australien

Translator: Eva Gebauer

Arabic

Translator: Ashraf M.T. Elewa

 

 

authorJacqueline M. T. Nguyen. Australian Museum Research Institute, Australian Museum, 1 William Street, Sydney, New South Wales 2010, Australia; and School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales 2052, Australia. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Jacqueline Nguyen is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Australian Museum in Sydney. She received her PhD from the University of New South Wales, Australia. Her research interests include systematics, taxonomy, morphology and evolution of fossil and extant Australasian birds, especially passerines (perching birds).

 

 

FIGURE 1. Distal left tibiotarsi of Daphoenositta trevorworthyi sp. nov. QM F57897 ( 1, 3, 5) compared with that of Da. chrysoptera AM.O.64965 ( 2, 4, 6). 1-2, cranial aspect; 3-4, caudal aspect; 5-6, lateral aspect. Abbreviations: cl, condylus lateralis; cm, condylus medialis; em, epicondylus medialis; lrf, lateral bony ridge of retinaculum m. fibularis; mrf, medial bony ridge of retinaculum m. fibularis; ps, pons supratendineus; rct, ridge on trochlea cartilaginis tibialis; trel, tuberositas retinaculi extensoris lateralis; trem, tuberositas retinaculi extensoris medialis. Arrows indicate scratch marks. Scale bar equals 2 mm.

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FIGURE 2. Distal left tibiotarsus of Cormobates sp. QM F57898 ( 1, 3, 5) compared with that of Cormobates leucophaea AM.O.60025 ( 2, 4, 6). 1-2, cranial aspect; 3-4, caudal aspect; 5-6, lateral aspect. Abbreviations: cl, condylus lateralis; em, epicondylus medialis; lrf, lateral bony ridge of retinaculum m. fibularis; mrf, medial bony ridge of retinaculum m. fibularis; ps, pons supratendineus; rct, ridge on trochlea cartilaginis tibialis; rim, thickened rim of the condylus lateralis; trel, tuberositas retinaculi extensoris lateralis; trem, tuberositas retinaculi extensoris medialis. Scale bar equals 2 mm.

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FIGURE 3. Distal left tibiotarsus of Climacteris sp. QM F36276 ( 1, 3, 5) compared with that of Climacteris picumnus AM O.64841 ( 2, 4, 6). 1-2,cranial aspect; 3-4, caudal aspect; 5-6, lateral aspect. Abbreviations: cl, condylus lateralis; em, epicondylus medialis; lrf, lateral bony ridge of retinaculum m. fibularis; mrf, medial bony ridge of retinaculum m. fibularis; ps, pons supratendineus; rct, ridge on trochlea cartilaginis tibialis; rim, thickened rim of the condylus lateralis; trel, tuberositas retinaculi extensoris lateralis; trem, tuberositas retinaculi extensoris medialis. Scale bar equals 2 mm.

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FIGURE 4. Comparison of fossil tibiotarsi of Daphoenositta trevorworthyi sp. nov. QM F57897 ( 1, 4), Cormobates sp. QM F57898 ( 2, 5) and Climacteris sp. QM F36276 ( 3, 6). 1-3, cranial aspect; 3-6, lateral aspect. Characteristic features are as follows: a, pons supratendineus situated proximally of the condylus medialis by a distance about equal to one-third of the length of this condyle; b , sulcus extensorius narrow; c, bony ridges for attachment of retinaculum m. fibularis located disto-laterally of the tuberositas retinaculi extensoris lateralis; d, pons supratendineus situated proximally of condylus medialis by a distance greater than 50% of the length of this condyle; e, bony ridges for retinaculum m. fibularis long and prominent; f, condyles short and set widely apart; g, bony ridges for retinaculum m. fibularis long and low; h, condylus lateralis circular in shape; i, medial bony ridge for retinaculum m. fibularis short; j, thickened rim on condylus lateralis. Scale bar equals 2 mm.

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