New Zealand's extinct Hakawai melvillei was sister taxon to Australian P

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Subject: New Zealand's extinct Hakawai melvillei was sister taxon to Australian Plains-wanderer
From: Patricia Maher <>
Date: Sat, 31 Oct 2015 04:58:48 +0000

A couple of New Zealand birders have kindly sent me this piece (which I
believe came from nzbirdsonline) while the editor of Birds New Zealand, the
magazine of the Ornithological Society of New Zealand, sent me the article's
link (below). The article was published in the Journal of Systematic

Hakawai melvillei
De Pietri, Scofield, Tennyson, Hand, Worthy, 2015

The New Zealand lake-wanderer was described from 52 bones recovered from
19-16 million-year-old (Early Miocene) lake-bed deposits along the
Manuherikia River and nearby Mata Creek, St Bathans, central Otago.

The holotype (NMNZ S.50806, a right tarsometatarsus) is held at Museum of
New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (Te Papa). The eight paratype skeletal
elements are held at Te Papa (6) and Canterbury Museum (2), along with 43
other skeletal elements.

The New Zealand lake-wanderer was a small, long-legged wader similar in size
to a male (Australian) plains-wanderer Pedionomus torquatus (i.e. about 54
g). Based on limb-bone proportions, it was probably a competent flier that
fed in shallow water. Some elements found were not skeletally mature,
indicating that the birds bred locally, rather than being migrants from
elsewhere. The discovery of bones of both adults and juveniles in sediments
deposited in shallow lake margins suggests that this is where it preferred
to live.

Skeletal features place the New Zealand lake-wanderer in a clade that
includes both the plains-wanderer (Pedionomidae) and the South American
seedsnipes (Thinocoridae), with the plains-wanderer as its closest relative.
However, it was sufficiently distinct that it may deserve placement in its
own family, as recognised in the common name proposed here.

The genus name is based on the mythical Hakawai bird of M?ori legend, now
recognised as being a nocturnal aerial display by Coenocorypha snipe. The
species name honours New Zealand-based ornithologist David Melville for his
efforts to advance shorebird conservation locally and globally.

Our dry land wanderers in the Wanganella area of NSW, while being scarce,
are looking to breed. As well as an adult trio (two males and a female), we
have recorded two young females (from a clutch laid in July) that are not
yet fully coloured but are seemingly wanting to breed, with one of those
females calling for a mate at barely three months old. This species is
amazingly resilient with minimal rainfall this year. Hopefully the rain
forecast for the next couple of days will eventuate.


Philip Maher

Australian Ornithological Services Pty Ltd
PO Box 385
South Yarra 3141
Tel: + 61 3 98204223
Mobile: 0417310200

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