Palaeobiodiversity and Palaeoenvironments

, Volume 91, Issue 4, pp 325–333 | Cite as

Two-phase extinction of “Southern Hemispheric” birds in the Cenozoic of Europe and the origin of the Neotropic avifauna

  • Gerald Mayr
Original Paper


A considerable number of fossil birds from the Cenozoic of Europe belong to taxa whose extant representatives are only found in the Southern Hemisphere. This study presents the first detailed analysis of the stratigraphic occurrences of these groups. Two well-separated extinction phases can be distinguished: one in the Paleogene, which concerned birds with crown group representatives in South America, Madagascar and Australia, and the second in the Miocene, which involved taxa that are today found in Africa or have a pantropic distribution. It is hypothesised that this unusual pattern is the result of a successive action of biotic and abiotic factors. South America was least affected by both extinction phases and served as a refugium for bird groups, which had a more widespread distribution in the Paleogene.


Biogeography Fossil birds Climatic cooling Grande coupure 



I thank Ursula Göhlich, Naturhistorisches Museum Wien, for photos of coliiform birds from Kohfidisch in Austria. Comments by B. Lindow and the reviewers Z. Bochenski and C. Mourer-Chauviré improved the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Senckenberg, Gesellschaft für Naturforschung and Springer 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sektion OrnithologieSenckenberg Forschungsinstitut und Naturmuseum FrankfurtFrankfurt am MainGermany

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