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Posts Tagged "palaeornithology"

Tetrapod Zoology

Blue tits: passerines seen from the peripheries (part II)

Preening Eurasian blue tit doing weird stuff with its wing: a bird that I photographed in April 2014. Photo by Darren Naish.

Today I want to talk more about passerines, and I know that this will make you happy. In particular: TITS!! Tits of several species are ubiquitous here in Europe. The two that are most frequently encountered here in southern England are the Great tit Parus major and Eurasian blue tit Cynanistes caeruleus. This article was [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

Where did all these Phorusrhacos come from?

Phorusrhacos models at various outdoor attractions. All images by Darren Naish except one at bottom left, by Colleen Blue.

If, as I have, you’ve spent copious time wandering the British countryside, visiting amusement parks and visitor attractions that feature life-sized ‘prehistoric animals’, you’ll surely have seen all those Phorusrhacos* models. Look, here’s a little montage I made… * You might have seen the name Phorusrhacos written as Phororhacos (and Phorusrhacidae written as Phororhacidae). The former [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

Margaret Kinnaird and Timothy O’Brien’s The Ecology & Conservation of Asian Hornbills: Farmers of the Forest

Kinnaird & O'Brien (2007), front cover.

Hornbills are among the most charismatic, fascinating and awesome of birds, yet surprisingly little is known about them, dedicated studies are few, and they are incredibly elusive and hard to study. Approximately 60 hornbill species occur across tropical Africa and Asia, and also in the Middle East and Australasia. These are birds of superlatives. The [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

Controversies from the world of ratite and tinamou evolution (part I)

Palaeognath montage, featuring members of all recent lineages: ostriches, rheas, kiwi, emus, tinamous, moa, elephant birds, and cassowaries. Image by Darren Naish.

As blasphemous and offensive as it seems to say it, birds are pretty samey. Generally speaking, they’re small flying things with long forelimbs, proportionally large heads with big, globular braincases, and grasping feet where an enlarged first toe (the hallux) opposes the remaining three. A shape like this was – so both the fossil record [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

Bird behaviour, the ‘deep time’ perspective

Composite cladogram of Avialae - topology and names based mostly on Yuri et al. (2013), and with many lineages excluded for reasons of space – showing where the fossil record gives us key insights into behaviour. From Naish (2014): this diagram is a much-updated version of the tree published in Naish (2012).

The behaviour of long-extinct animals remains an area of major public and scientific interest – the great perennial problem being that we’re always massively constrained, if not crippled, by a frustrating lack of data. Think of all the things we want to know, versus the things that we actually do know. In a paper recently [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

The ‘ghosts’ of extinct birds in modern ecosystems

Three moa species (Pachyornis elephantopus, Dinornis giganteus and Anomalopteryx didiformis) with the divaricating plant Myrsine divaricata in the background. Did browsing pressure from moa result in the evolution of divarication? Image by Darren Naish, CC BY.

It needs to be better appreciated that the vast majority of modern ecosystems and communities are ‘broken’ or, at least, very much incomplete compared to the situation present within very recent geological history: they lack an often significant number of key component species including some, many or all of the so-called keystone species. Why? As [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

Kea, Kaka, Kakapo

New Zealand is home to several highly peculiar endemic parrots, with three similar-looking species being of particular interest: the Kakapo Strigops habroptila, Kea Nestor notabilis, and Kaka N. meridionalis. Here are taxiderm specimens of all three on display together (with other New Zealand endemic birds*) at Bexhill Museum, Bexhill, East Sussex. I can’t pretend to [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

Tubenosed seabirds that shear the waves: of Calonectris, Lugensa, and Puffinus (petrels part VII)

As a regular Tet Zoo reader (right?) you’ll be aware of the petrel series. I’m keen to finish it (hey, just as I am with all the other still-incomplete Tet Zoo series), so let’s crack on. In previous articles, we looked at gadfly-petrels, the members of Fulmarini, and also at the evolution, biology and diversity [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

The other peacock

Mention ‘peacock’ (or ‘peafowl’) and the vast majority of people will think of Pavo cristatus, the mostly Indian, blue-plumaged Indian peacock. Distinctive features of the males of this species include a face marked with black and white stripes, a crest composed of wire-like shafts tipped with blue, fan-shaped tufts, orange-brown primary feathers, dark-brown-and-white stripes on [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

The other turkey

Whenever I mention turkeys on Tet Zoo, it’s unavoidable that I (generally) mention or illustrate the turkey we know best: the domestic form of Meleagris gallopavo, the North American bird typically known as the Wild turkey. It’s big, with bronzy-brown plumage, a mostly pinkish head and neck and a wiry ‘beard’ that hangs down from [...]

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