Henderson island fossils reveal new Polynesian sandpiper species

Henderson island fossils reveal new Polynesian sandpiper species

Fossil bones collected within the early 1990s on Henderson Island, a part of the Pitcairn Group, have revealed a brand new species of Polynesian sandpiper.

Henderson island fossils reveal new Polynesian sandpiper species
The extinct Kiritimati Sandpiper, Prosobonia cancellata – a detailed cousin of the newly
found Prosobonia sauli [Credit: George Edward Lodge, 1907]

The Henderson Sandpiper, a small wading chook that has been extinct for hundreds of years, is described in an article within the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society revealed final week.

The newly-described chook is formally named Prosobonia sauli after Cook dinner Islands-based ornithologist and conservationist Edward Okay Saul.

A crew of researchers from New Zealand, Australia, Denmark, Switzerland, the Netherlands and China, led by Canterbury Museum Analysis Curator Pure Historical past Dr Vanesa De Pietri, described the Henderson Sandpiper from 61 fossilised bones cared for by the Pure Historical past Museum at Tring in England.

Canterbury Museum Visiting Researcher Dr Graham Wragg collected the bones from caves and overhangs on Henderson Island in 1991 and 1992 throughout the Sir Peter Scott Commemorative Expedition to the Pitcairn Islands.

Prosobonia sauli is the fifth identified species of Polynesian sandpiper. All however one of many species, the endangered Tuamotu Sandpiper (Prosobonia parvirostris), are extinct.

“We predict Prosobonia sauli in all probability went extinct quickly after people arrived on Henderson Island, which archaeologists estimate occurred no sooner than the eleventh century,” says Dr De Pietri.

“It is potential these people introduced with them the Polynesian rat, which Polynesian sandpiper populations are very weak to.”

DNA of the residing Tuamotu Sandpiper and the extinct Tahiti Sandpiper (Prosobonia leucoptera), which is thought solely from a pores and skin within the Naturalis Biodiversity Heart within the Netherlands, was used to find out how Polynesian sandpipers are associated to different wading birds.

Henderson island fossils reveal new Polynesian sandpiper species
The Henderson Island Sandpiper bones had been excavated from caves throughout the Sir Peter Scott
Commemorative Expedition within the early 1990s. Canterbury Museum Visiting Researcher
Dr Graham Wragg, one of many paper’s co-authors, is second from left on this picture
[Credit: Canterbury Museum]

“We discovered that Polynesian sandpipers are early-diverging members of a bunch that features calidrine sandpipers and turnstones. They’re in contrast to different sandpipers in that they’re restricted to islands of the Pacific and don’t migrate,” says Dr De Pietri.

Comparisons with the opposite two extinct Polynesian sandpiper species, the Kiritimati Sandpiper (Prosobonia cancellata) and the Mo’orea Sandpiper (Prosobonia ellisi), are difficult. These birds are identified solely from illustrations primarily by William Wade Ellis, an artist and Surgeon’s Mate on Captain James Cook dinner’s third expedition, who in all probability noticed the birds alive within the 1770s.

In comparison with the Tuamotu Sandpiper, its geographically closest cousin, the Henderson Sandpiper had longer legs and a wider, straighter invoice, indicating the way it foraged for meals. It in all probability tailored to the habitats accessible on Henderson Island, that are completely different to these on different islands the place Polynesian sandpipers had been discovered.

Henderson Island is the most important island within the Pitcairn Group, in the course of the South Pacific Ocean. It has been uninhabited since across the fifteenth century and was designated a World Heritage Website by the United Nations in 1988.

Dr Paul Scofield, Canterbury Museum Senior Curator Pure Historical past and one of many research’s co-authors, says Henderson Island is dwelling to a lot of distinctive species, a handful of that are landbirds just like the Henderson Sandpiper.

“The island is de facto fairly outstanding as a result of each landbird species that lives there, or that we all know used to stay there, isn’t discovered anyplace else,” he says.

Dr De Pietri says the research reveals the necessity to defend the one remaining Polynesian sandpiper species, the Tuamotu Sandpiper.

“We all know that just some centuries in the past there have been no less than 5 Polynesian sandpiper species scattered across the Pacific. Now there’s just one, and its numbers are declining, so we have to guarantee we glance after the remaining populations.”

Supply: Canterbury Museum [November 16, 2020]

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