helped identify the 22 million-year-old fossil remains of a long-lost
family of waterfowl. Canterbury
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
the presbyornithids were still alive and well 'Down Under' until at least 22
million years ago. South Australia
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
Museum and Adelaide's
, published in Royal
Society Open Science, found the Wilaru was of the waterfowl lineage, rather
than being a shorebird. Flinders University
Dr Vanesa De Petri, who led the research at
, said what was
really remarkable was the Australian presbyornithids lived alongside modern
waterfowl like ducks and geese. Canterbury
"This is the first and only record of this co-existence," De Petri said.