Sunday, January 27, 2013

[PaleoOrnithology • 2010] Leptoptilos robustus • A new species of Giant Marabou Stork (Aves: Ciconiiformes) from the Pleistocene of Liang Bua, Flores (Indonesia)

The extinct giant stork Leptoptilos robustus would have dwarfed the "hobbit" Homo floresiensis living on the Indonesian Island of Flores. (artist's impression)
Art: Inge van Noortwijk
Leptoptilos robustus Meijer & Due 2010

Fossils of the genus Leptoptilos from the Pleistocene of Liang Bua, Flores, Indonesia, belong to a new species of giant marabou stork, Leptoptilos robustus sp. nov. This giant bird, estimated at 1.80 m in length, was similar in dimensions to extant Leptoptilos dubius, except for the tibiotarsus. The thick cortical bone wall of the tibiotarsus and the estimated weight of 16 kg imply a reduced flight capability. Osteological and biometric characters suggest that L. robustus is most closely related to L. dubius. An evolutionary lineage is proposed in which a volant L. dubius-like ancestor in the Middle Pleistocene evolved into the Late Pleistocene L. robustus on Flores, with a concomitant reduction of the ability to fly and an increase in body size. The large body size and terrestrial lifestyle of L. robustus are responses to an unbalanced, insular environment with abundant prey items and a lack of mammalian carnivores, and emphasize the extraordinary nature of the Homo floresiensis fauna.

Keywords: extinction; fossil bird; Homo floresiensis; island fauna; South-East Asia

Etymology: From the Latin robustus meaning ‘strong, robust’, and referring to the large tibiotarsus and the thickness of its cortex.

Type locality: Liang Bua cave, Manggarai Province, Flores, Indonesia at 08°31′50.4″S, 120°26′36.9″E.

[in Pic: Leptoptilos robustus compare with Homo floresiensis, 'hobbit'.
top Right: related extant species Lesser Adjutant, Leptoptilos javanicus, นกตะกรุม in Thai.
bottom Right: Map of Type locality Liang Bua caves on Flores island, Indonesia]

Giant fossil bird found on 'hobbit' island of Flores
Revealed: The giant stork that used to terrorise Indonesia's tiny 'hobbits'

Giant Stork, Leptoptilos robustus, May Have Ate Ancient Hobbit-Like Humans On Flores Island via @HuffPostGreen

Meijer HJM & R A Due. 2010. A new species of giant marabou stork (Aves: Ciconiiformes) from the Pleistocene of Liang Bua, Flores (Indonesia). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. 160: 707–724. doi:10.1111/j.1096-3642.2010.00616.x