megapodes again

Subject: megapodes again
From: (John Leonard)
Date: Mon, 7 Apr 1997 11:12:05 +1000 (EST)
The answers I got to my question as to why there isn't a megapode species
inhabiting dry forest and woodland in the east can be summarised as follows:

1. Malleefowl live in a much wider range of habitat in the west than they do
in the east at present, but there is evidence that in the east they may have
been driven out of woodland and other similar habitat back to the mallee,
which may not be their prime habitat, but a refuge.

2. Scrub-turkeys and Scrubfowl range widely outside 'rainforest' in the
strict sense, and in the south, beyond the ranges of these two species,
other ground dwelling birds, such as Lyrebirds, may occupy that niche.

I suppose another way of looking at the question is to say that all extant
megapodes (the 2 northern species and the other speices in New Guinea and
Oceania) apart from the malleefowl are rainforest/tropical coastal forest
birds and that the malleefowl apparently represents a unique evolutionary
experiment, so we shouldn't wonder that there isn't another dry-forest megapode.

I remember reading that there was a giant malleefolw ancestor from the
Miocene found in the Riversleigh deposits, but this was a rainforest setting
at the time, so the 'experiment' must have taken place subsequently, during
the great drying of Australia.


Dr John Leonard
PO Box 243, Woden,

" Old pond,
  a frog.  "  Basho


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