Refereed Article Fossil honeyeaters (Meliphagidae) from the Late Tertiary of Riversleigh, north-western Queensland

Citation: Boles, W.E. 2005. Fossil honeyeaters (Meliphagidae) from the Late Tertiary of Riversleigh, north-western Queensland. Emu. 105. 21-26.

Abstract:

The honeyeaters (Meliphagidae) comprise one of the most characteristic, numerous, speciose and widespread components of the Australo-Papuan avifauna. Despite their present ubiquity, these birds have a meagre fossil record restricted to the Quaternary. Described here are the first Late Tertiary records of the Meliphagidae, recovered from Pliocene and Miocene sites of Riversleigh, north-western Queensland. These records are based on the tarsometatarsus, which in honeyeaters is one of the more distinctive morphologies among the Passeriformes. The Pliocene site at Riversleigh has yielded three specimens, one of which is particularly well preserved and morphologically inseparable from the extant Lichenostomus–Meliphaga. Specimens from three Miocene sites exhibit differences in size and morphology that indicate that at least four taxa are involved at this age.

 

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