Sittellas (Neosittidae) and Australo-Papuan treecreepers (Climacteridae) are scansorial passerine birds that are unique to the Australasian region. A new species of a sittella, Daphoenositta trevorworthyi sp. nov., is described from a distal tibiotarsus from middle Miocene deposits of the Riversleigh World Heritage Area in northwestern Queensland, Australia. This distal tibiotarsus is considerably larger than those of extant sittellas and exhibits signs of predation. Tibiotarsi from early Miocene deposits at Riversleigh are attributed to the modern climacterid genera Cormobates and Climacteris. These fossils provide the first pre-Pleistocene records of these extant families and genera. The tibiotarsi of Daphoenositta trevorworthyi sp. nov. and the fossil climacterids share several features that are associated with climbing tree trunks. These features are also present in their extant congeners and with unrelated scansorial passerines. The emerging Australian fossil record suggests that this region played a central role in the evolutionary history of Passeriformes, the world’s largest avian radiation.
- new species