Late‐Pleistocene avifaunas from Cape Wanbrow, Otago, South Island, New Zealand

T. H. Worthy, J. A. Grant-Mackie

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17 Citations (Scopus)


Fossil avifaunas from the Hillgrove Formation at Boatmans Harbour, Ruby Gully, and Old Rifle Butts, all on Cape Wanbrow, Oamaru, north‐east Otago, are listed. The marine beach sands and gravels at Old Rifle Butts that form the lowest part of the Hillgrove Formation and overlie the palaeo‐wave platform were deposited during the last interglacial ∼130–110 kyr BP (Oxygen Isotope Stage 5). There are a few small avifaunas (totalling 11 spp.) from these beach sediments (J41/f8710, f8214, f8227). The colluvial, valley‐fill deposits in Ruby Gully and at its mouth are the youngest in the sequence. Radiocarbon dating indicates their emplacement between 27 and 34 kyr BP, or the later part of Oxygen Isotope Stage 3. If these ages are representative of the true age of the samples and not the limitations of radiocarbon technology, they indicate that these deposits in Ruby Gully are much younger than the beach deposits. Radiocarbon ages on a pitfall fauna from a small cave 3–4 m above the base of the Hillgrove Formation indicate that the cave fauna has a similar age as that in Ruby Gully. The dune and interdune waterlaid deposits at Old Rifle Butts (>2 m above the wave platform) may date from an unknown time between 100 and 35 kyr BP or be coeval with those in Ruby Gully. Fifty‐three species of bird (32 land and freshwater taxa) are represented in the combined avifaunas making this the richest Pleistocene avifauna known from New Zealand. All bird taxa are known from Late Holocene avifaunas in the eastern South Island. Key taxa (Pachyornis elephantopus, Emeus crassus, Euryapteryx geranoides, Coturnix, Chenonetta, Cnemiornis, Harpagornis, Fulica, Porphyrio, Gallinula) indicate that the habitat was mainly grassland and shrubland. Tuatara, indeterminate skinks, and seals are also present.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)427-485
Number of pages59
JournalJournal of the Royal Society of New Zealand
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Cape Wanbrow
  • Fossil avifaunas
  • Hillgrove Formation
  • Late Pleistocene
  • New Zealand


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