Wednesday, August 7, 2019

[PaleoOrnithology • 2019] Heracles inexpectatus • A Giant Parrot (Psittaciformes) from the Early Miocene of New Zealand

Heracles inexpectatus 
Worthy, Hand, Archer, Scofield & De Pietri, 2019

Reconstruction: Brian Choo


Insular avifaunas have repeatedly spawned evolutionary novelties in the form of unusually large, often flightless species. We report fossils from the Early Miocene St Bathans Fauna of New Zealand that attests to the former existence of a giant psittaciform, which is described as a new genus and species. The fossils are two incomplete tibiotarsi from a bird with an estimated mass of 7 kg, double that of the heaviest known parrot, the kakapo Strigops habroptila. These psittaciform fossils show that parrots join the growing group of avian taxa prone to giantism in insular species, currently restricted to palaeognaths, anatids, sylviornithids, columbids, aptornithids, ciconiids, tytonids, falconids and accipitrids.

Keywords: Psittaciformes, St Bathans Fauna, insular giantism, fossil bird, taxonomy 

the giant parrot, Heracles inexpectatus, dwarfing a bevy of 8 cm high Kuiornis -- small New Zealand wrens scuttling about on the forest floor.
Reconstruction: Brian Choo, Flinders University

 Systematic palaeontology 

Aves Linnaeus, 1758
 Psittaciformes Wagler, 1830 
?Strigopoidea Bonaparte, 1849

Heracles inexpectatus gen. et sp. nov. 

Etymology: The nestorid Nelepsittacus from the St Bathans Fauna was named after Neleus. This much larger psittaciform is named after the Greek Heracles, who in Latin was known as Hercules, and who killed Neleus and his sons, except for Nestor. Genus gender masculine. The specific epithet denotes the unexpected nature of this find.

Trevor H. Worthy, Suzanne J. Hand, Michael Archer, R. Paul Scofield and Vanesa L. De Pietri. 2019. Evidence for A Giant Parrot from the Early Miocene of New Zealand. Biology Letters.  DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2019.0467
A whopping 'squawkzilla': Meet 'Hercules'—the giant parrot that dwarfs its modern cousins via @physorg_com