Love's Paleocene seabird

Australornis lovei Mayr & Scofield, 2014

Order: Unknown

Family: Incertae sedis

New Zealand status: Endemic

Conservation status: Extinct

 
 
Love's Paleocene seabird. Proximal right humerus (part of holotype CM 2010.108.2). Scale bar = 10 mm. Waipara River, Canterbury. Image © Canterbury Museum by Kyle Davis

Love's Paleocene seabird. Proximal right humerus (part of holotype CM 2010.108.2). Scale bar = 10 mm. Waipara River, Canterbury. Image © Canterbury Museum by Kyle Davis

Gerald Mayr and Paul Scofield described this ‘non-penguin’ seabird of uncertain relationships from associated wing and pectoral girdle bones recovered within a distance of 50 cm of each other from 61.6-60.5 million-year-old (late early Paleocene) marine deposits along the Waipara River, North Canterbury. The fossil bones recovered included parts of a right coracoid, right scapula, right humerus and right ulna, fragments presumed to be from a radius, and the left os carpi radiale. The fossils were recovered from the same Waipara Greensand strata and only 2-3 metres from the type locality of Mannering’s penguin (Waimanu manneringi), making these two specimens the oldest bird fossils known from New Zealand.

The absence of hind limb bones (particularly the tarsometatarsus) makes determining the affinities of Australornis difficult. Mayr & Scofield concluded that it may have resembled a grebe or a member of a neognathine ‘waterbird clade’ that included loons (divers), petrels, penguins and ibises, and that the morphology of the forelimbs were not compatible with the wings being used for propulsion through water.

The genus name Australornis means ‘southern bird’. The species name lovei honours Leigh Love, who discovered the specimens in 2009. The holotype (CM 2010.108.2) comprised of parts of at least six bones is held at Canterbury Museum.

References

Mayr, G.; Scofield, R.P. 2014. First diagnosable non-sphenisciform bird from the early Paleocene of New Zealand. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 44: 48-56.

Recommended citation

Miskelly, C.M. 2014 [updated 2017]. Love’s Paleocene seabird. In Miskelly, C.M. (ed.) New Zealand Birds Online. www.nzbirdsonline.org.nz

Love's Paleocene seabird

Breeding season
  • Jul
  • Aug
  • Sep
  • Oct
  • Nov
  • Dec
  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
  • Jun
Egg laying dates
  • Jul
  • Aug
  • Sep
  • Oct
  • Nov
  • Dec
  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
  • Jun