Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 156, Issue 4, pp 1061–1066 | Cite as

Evidence of the former existence of an endemic macaw in Guadeloupe, Lesser Antilles

  • Monica Gala
  • Arnaud Lenoble
Original Article


The discovery of a bone referred to the genus Ara Lacépède, 1799 from a Pleistocene fossil-bearing deposit on Marie-Galante demonstrates macaws to have been present in Guadeloupe before any Amerindian settlement. This directly contradicts the hypothesis that macaws described in historical records concerning the Lesser Antilles were introduced by native peoples from South America. The fossil bone is a terminal phalanx similar in size to a large macaw. Based on its size and geographic arguments, the fossil bone found on Marie-Galante can be attributed to an endemic large macaw (Lesser Antillean Macaw, Ara guadeloupensis Clark in Auk 22:266–273, 1905) presumed to have inhabited the Guadeloupe Islands. This discovery currently provides the strongest evidence supporting the former existence of this now-extinct macaw.


Ara guadeloupensis Extinct birds Guadeloupe Marie-Galante Macaw Pleistocene fossil-bearing deposit 


Nachweis für ein früheres Vorkommen eines endemischen Papageis im französischen Überseedépartement Guadeloupe, Kleine Antillen

Die Entdeckung eines der Gattung Ara Lacepede 1799, zugeschriebenen Knochens aus dem Pleistozän von einer fossilreichen Grabungsstätte auf der Insel Marie-Galante, weist darauf hin, dass es in Guadeloupe vor einer amerikanisch-indianischen Besiedlung Papageien gegeben haben muss. Dies steht in direktem Widerspruch zu der Hypothese, dass die in alten Aufzeichnungen beschriebenen Papageien der Kleinen Antillen von den Ureinwohnern Südamerikas eingeführt worden seien. Der ausgegrabene Knochen ist ein endständiger Fingerknochen, der dem eines großen Papageienvogels entspricht. Seiner Größe und der geographischen Argumentation folgend, kann dieser fossile Knochen von der Insel Marie-Galante einem großen Papageienvogel zugesprochen werden (Kleine Antillen-Papagei, Ara guadeloupensis Clark 1905), der vermutlich auf dieser Antillen-Insel endemisch war. Diese Entdeckung ist der zur Zeit stärkste Beweis für das frühere Vorkommen des heutzutage ausgestorbenen Papageis.



This study was conducted as a part of the BIVAAG Program established by the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), with support from a European PO-FEDER grant 2007–2013 n°2/2.4/-33456, the Guadeloupe Regional Council, the Direction de l’Environnement et de l’Aménagement du Territoire (DEAL) of Guadeloupe, and the Direction des Affaires Culturelles (DAC) of Guadeloupe. We are very grateful to Veronique Laroulandie for her valuable help and suggestions. We would like to thank Christine Lefevre for access to the bird bone collections of the Laboratoire d’Anatomie Comparée of the Muséum Nationale d’Histoire Naturelle of Paris, Cécile Mourer-Chauviré for helpful comments, Frédéric Fronteneau and Laurent Delavis for donating modern specimens that augmented the Université de Bordeaux osteological collection, and also Maxime Pelletier and Emilie Campmas for preparing the anatomical reference material. Monica Gala thanks Mathieu Langlais, Éric Pubert, Alain Queffelec, Ivana Fiore and Antonio Tagliacozzo for their help.


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Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.PACEA-UMR CNRS 5199PessacFrance

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