Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 152, Issue 3, pp 669–680 | Cite as

Fossils reveal an early Miocene presence of the aberrant gruiform Aves: Aptornithidae in New Zealand

  • Trevor H. WorthyEmail author
  • Alan J. D. Tennyson
  • R. Paul Scofield
Original Article


A member of the New Zealand endemic family (Aves: Aptornithidae) is described from the Early Miocene St Bathans Fauna of Central Otago, South Island, New Zealand. The new species, based on two thoracic vertebrae, is provisionally referred to the highly distinctive Late Pleistocene–Holocene extinct genus Aptornis Mantell, 1848 (in Quart J Geol Soc Lond 4:225–238, 1848). It differs from both Recent species by slightly smaller size, greater pneumaticity of the corpus vertebrae and differences of the processus spinosus and processus transversi. We refer a distal femur, another vertebral fragment, a phalange and tentatively a tibial fragment, also from the St Bathans Fauna, to this new taxon.


Aptornis Aptornithidae Early Miocene Bannockburn Formation New Zealand 


Ein Mitglied der in Neuseeland endemischen Familie der Aptornithidae wird für die früh-miozänische St. Bathans Fauna von Zentral-Otago, Südinsel, Neuseeland beschrieben. Basierend auf zwei thorakalen Wirbeln wird die neue Art vorläufig der stark verschiedenen, ausgestorbenen Gattung Aptornis Mantell, 1848 (in Quart J Geol Soc Lond 4:225–238, 1848) aus dem späten Pleistozän–Holozän zugeordnet. Sie unterscheidet sich von beiden rezenten Arten durch eine etwas geringere Größe, ausgeprägtere Hohlkammerung des Corpus Vertebrae, sowie Unterschiede des Processus Spinosus und des Processus Transversi. Wir ordnen ein distales Femur- und ein anderes Wirbelfragment, ein Fingerglied und vorläufig auch ein Tibiafragment, ebenfalls von der St. Bathans Fauna, diesem neuen Taxon zu.



The authors are indebted to the unstinting efforts of many field assistants in the St Bathans Fauna project, especially Jenny Worthy, Jacqui Nguyen, Walter Boles and Aaron Camens and the rest of the volunteers for 2008–2010 who helped in excavations that revealed the key fossils described here. We are particularly thankful for the continued generous support to this project by the land owners Ann and Euan Johnstone. This research was part of the project DP0770660 funded by the Australian Research Council, and was also supported by the authors’ institutions. We thank Alexander Fergus for placing the femur fragment he collected in the Otago University Geology Department collections and providing locality details. We thank Jean-Claude Stahl and Raymond Coory (NMNZ) for providing images of the fossil femur and Gerald Mayr and another referee for comments that helped improve the text.


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Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Trevor H. Worthy
    • 1
    Email author
  • Alan J. D. Tennyson
    • 2
  • R. Paul Scofield
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Biological, Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Museum of New Zealand Te Papa TongarewaWellingtonNew Zealand
  3. 3.Canterbury MuseumChristchurchNew Zealand

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