Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Old bird, New World: Did the South American hoatzins originate in Europe?

22.01.2014
Where did hoatzins come from? These unusual birds, only one species of which exists in South America today, originated in the Old World.

Studies of the oldest known fossils of Hoatzin ancestors have now shown that these birds existed around 34 million years ago in Europe. Paleornithologists at the Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung and Flinders University in Adelaide published their findings this week in the specialist journal “Naturwissenschaften”.


Hoatzin (Opisthocomus hoazin)
©Senckenberg

The Hoatzin (Opisthocomus hoazin) is also known as the Stinkbird or Canje Pheasant and today exists only in parts of South America. Its relationship among birds is as unclear as its evolutionary history. Until recently, South America was considered to be the area of origin of these birds.

Then, however, fossils from Africa were described, and new discoveries from Africa and Europe now prove conclusively that hoatzins reached South America from the Old World. A study published in January 2014 in the ornithological journal “The Auk” provided the very first evidence of largely modern Hoatzins from the Miocene (15 million years ago) in Africa.

The oldest fossils attributed to hoatzins were found more than 100 years ago near Paris. But only now have paleornithologists been able to show that these remains belong to ancestors of the modern Hoatzin. The fossils belong to a newly described species, Protoazin parisiensis (“proto-Hoatzin from Paris”). The re-interpretation of these bones indicates that hoatzins lived in Europe as early as the late Eocene, i.e. around 34 million years ago.

“This supports the theory that hoatzins originated in the Old World,” says Dr Gerald Mayr of the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt. In the opinion of Dr Vanesa De Pietri of Flinders University in Australia, it is “a further impressive example that the South American avian fauna contains numerous relicts that were once much more widespread”.

Most notably, Hoatzins appear to have become extinct in Europe much earlier than in Africa, where the latest fossils were dated as of Miocene age (15 million years ago) and are thus only around half as old. The disappearance of these birds might be connected to a period when numerous new animal species migrated from Asia to Europe during the so-called “Grande Coupure” around 34 million years ago. These included tree-dwelling carnivorous mammals who may have posed a threat to hoatzin nestlings, which are raised in open nests. Because hoatzins can fly short distances only, the adult birds are also easy prey. In Africa, by contrast, similar tree-dwelling carnivorous mammals are shown to have existed much later.

Digestion specialist and climbing artist

The present-day Hoatzin exhibits a special mode of digestion. These herbivores pre-digest their food in this crop before further processing in the stomach and intestines. Similar to the rumen of a cow – a digestive knack that has not been mastered by any other bird. Skeletal features show that Old World hoatzins already had a large crop.

Another special feature of the Hoatzin are the claws on the wings of the chicks, which enable the hatchlings to climb trees.

Publications:

De Pietri, Vanesa L., Mayr, Gerald (2014) Earliest and first Northern Hemispheric hoatzin fossils substantiate Old World origin of “Neotropic endemic”, Naturwissenschaften, © Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014 doi:10.1007/s00114-014-1144-8

Mayr, Gerald (2014) A hoatzin fossil from the middle Miocene of Kenya documents the past occurrence of modern-type Opisthocomiformes in Africa. Auk 131: 55-60.

doi: 10.1642/AUK-13-134.1

Dr. Gerald Mayr
Senckenberg Forschungsinstitut
und Naturmuseum Frankfurt
Sektion Ornithologie
Tel.: 069- 7542 1348
Gerald.Mayr@senckenberg.de
Vanesa L. De Pietri
School of Biological Sciences, Flinders University, Adelaide
Australia
vanesa.depietri@gmail.com
Press Office:
Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung
Regina Bartel
Senckenberganlage 25
60325 Frankfurt am Main
Tel.: 069- 7542 1434
regina.bartel@senckenberg.de
Weitere Informationen:
http://www.senckenberg.de/root/index.php?page_id=5210&year=2011&kid=2&id=1828
The first fossil evidence of Hoatzins in Africa was published in October 2011 – also with the participation of Dr Gerald Mayr.

http://www.senckenberg.de/root/index.php?page_id=5210&year=2014&kid=2&id=2960

Dr. Sören Dürr | Senckenberg
Further information:
http://www.senckenberg.de

Further reports about: Hoatzin Senckenberg carnivorous mammals

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Sediment from Himalayas may have made 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake more severe
26.05.2017 | Oregon State University

nachricht Devils Hole: Ancient Traces of Climate History
24.05.2017 | Universität Innsbruck

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

First Juno science results supported by University of Leicester's Jupiter 'forecast'

26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>