As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Saturday 5 March 2016

Canterbury researchers help identify 22 million-year-old fossil

Researchers at Canterbury Museum have helped identify the 22 million-year-old fossil remains of a long-lost family of waterfowl. 

Presbyornithids were wading waterfowl with the body of a stilt and the head of a duck. They were thought to have disappeared worldwide about 48 million years ago when the early relatives of ducks and geese first appeared.

Recent research on fossils found in the 1980s near Lake Eyre, in South Australia, revealed the presbyornithids were still alive and well 'Down Under' until at least 22 million years ago.
Unlike other presbyornithids, the Australian birds, which go by the scientific name of Wilaru, were predominantly terrestrial, which allowed them to co-exist with their mainly aquatic modern relatives and probably contributed to their long-term survival.

New research by a team from Canterbury Museum and Adelaide's Flinders University, published in Royal Society Open Science, found the Wilaru was of the waterfowl lineage, rather than being a shorebird. 

Dr Vanesa De Petri, who led the research at Canterbury Museum, said what was really remarkable was the Australian presbyornithids lived alongside modern waterfowl like ducks and geese.

"This is the first and only record of this co-existence," De Petri said.

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