An exceptional partial skeleton of a new basal raptor (Aves: Accipitridae) from the late Oligocene Namba formation, South Australia

Ellen K. Mather, Michael S.Y. Lee, Aaron B. Camens, Trevor H. Worthy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The Australian pre-Pleistocene fossil record of Accipitridae (eagles, hawks, old-world vultures) comprises one latest Oligocene or early Miocene and one middle Miocene species, each represented by partial bones. Globally, most fossil accipitrids are based on single bones. The recent discovery of an older and considerably more complete accipitrid from late Oligocene sediments in Australia is therefore significant. It is derived from the Pinpa Local Fauna from the Namba Formation at Lake Pinpa, South Australia (~26–24 Ma). The fossil, described as Archaehierax sylvestris gen. et sp. nov., represents a raptor that was larger than the black-breasted buzzard Hamirostra melanosternon but smaller and more gracile than the wedge-tailed eagle Aquila audax. Comprehensive morphological and molecular phylogenetic analyses resolved Archaehierax as a basal accipitrid, not closely related to any living subfamily and perhaps the sister taxon to all other accipitrids exclusive of elanines. Relatively short wings similar to species of Spizaetus and Spilornis suggest it was adapted for flight within enclosed forests. Additional accipitrid fossils from the Namba Formation, a distal femur and a distal humerus, are incomparable with the holotype of A. sylvestris; they may represent distinct species or smaller individuals of the new taxon. lsid:zoobank.org:pub:6A25C569-3E9F-43B8-AAF8-F36CE405C06E.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages33
JournalHistorical Biology
Early online date27 Sep 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Sep 2021

Keywords

  • accipitrid evolution
  • Accipitriformes
  • Australia
  • Cenozoic fossil birds
  • Lake Pinpa

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