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1 septiembre 2014 1 01 /09 /septiembre /2014 16:49

Vampyravus fate by batworker

In the early Oligocene in Faiyum, Egypt, young shoe-billed stork (Goliathia aendrewsi) found dead Vampyravus orientalis, floating on the water surface. From time to time bats occasionally fell into water and, though most of them can swim for some distance, part of those bats die out.



Goliathia is an extinct genus of shoebill. The holotype is an ulna recovered from lower beds of the Jebel Qatrani Formation in Faiyum Governorate in Egypt. Initially thought to be a heron, an additional bone, a tarsometatarsus, showed this bird to be closely related to the living shoebill. Its full name is Goliathia andrewsii, but may be closely related enough to be classed within the same genus as the living species. The ancient habitat was likely a thickly vegetated freshwater swamp, with this species and a fossil jacana, as well as lungfish and catfish recovered from it. The same size as the living shoebill, it likely ate lungfish and catfish.[1]




La reciente breve incursión, en territorio del ave picozapato (shoebill) me lleva a consignar esta entrega (este post) y amerita utilizar algunas otras imágenes de los archivos Tet Zoo (Tetrapod Zoology blog).
Destaca la solidez del hueso yugal (la gruesa barra osea ventral de la cuenca del ojo). También es interesante la posición dorsoposterior de la fosa nasal ósea. En las aves, la fosa nasal está cubierta por una de las placas de queratina del pico y, por tanto, no es obvia: este es también el caso en fragatas, pelícanos, alcatraces y anhingas y es uno de los varios caracteres morfológicos que se han utilizado para indicar que estos todos estos pájaros son parientes cercanos del picozapato (Mayr 2003) - una hipótesis que contradice la interpretación 'más tradicional' de que los picozapatos (shoebill) son miembros raros de las aves Ciconiiformes, el grupo que incluye a las cigüeñas y aliados, un orden de aves neognatas cuya amplitud y composición ha sido muy discutida durante años. En realidad, de 'más tradicional' no tiene nada en absoluto, pero es sin duda la visión que se ha presentado con mayor frecuencia en la literatura ornitológica popular y semi-técnica (un muy interesante, y no del todo infrecuente, fenómeno).
La punta agudamente curvada en gancho del premaxilar del picozapato, también se ha sugerido como carácter compartido con fragatas, pelícanos, cormoranes y alcatraces * (Cottam 1957, Mayr 2003) [otras topologías están disponibles, sin embargo: Hackett et al. (2008) encontraron que picozapatos, avemartillos (hammerkops) y pelícanos forman un clado que es el grupo hermano del clado-garza ibis; un clado que contiene fragatas, alcatraces, cormoranes y anhingas era la hermana taxón a este pelícano-hammerkop-shoebill + clado garza-ibis].




You can never have too many shoebills



The recent, brief foray into Shoebill territory made now a sensible time to use a few other Shoebill-based images I have here in the Tet Zoo archives. That, and I haven’t been able to finish anything more substantive due to other commitments. We begin with a lateral view of a skull I once photographed – sorry about the crazy colours, once again my fantastic photographic skills have done me proud (this image is a scan of a piece of special paper featuring the image… I think it’s called a photograph [thanks to Victor for providing modified versions]).


Note how robust the jugal is (the thick bar ventral to the eye socket). Also interesting is the dorsoposterior position of the bony nostril: obvious evidence that Balaeniceps has a trunk. No, just kidding, ha ha. In life, the nostril is covered by one of the keratinous plates of the bill and hence is not obvious: this is also the case in frigatebirds, pelicans, gannets and anhingas and is one of several morphological characters that have been used to indicate that these birds are close relatives (Mayr 2003) – a hypothesis that contradicts the ‘more traditional’ interpretation of the Shoebill as a weird member of Ciconiiformes, the group that includes storks and allies. Actually, it’s not ‘more traditional’ at all, but it’s definitely the view that’s been most frequently presented in the popular and semi-technical ornithological literature (a very interesting, and not at all uncommon, phenomenon). The sharply hooked tip of the Shoebill premaxillae has also been suggested to be a shared derived character of shoebills, frigatebirds, pelicans, cormorants and gannets* (Cottam 1957, Mayr 2003) [other topologies are available, however: Hackett et al. (2008) found shoebills, hammerkops and pelicans to form a clade that is the sister-group to a heron-ibis clade; a clade containing frigatebirds, gannets, cormorants and anhingas was the sister-taxon to this pelican-hammerkop-shoebill + heron-ibis clade].

* It’s present in newly hatched chicks but lost during growth.

I don’t know what that hole is on the side of the rostrum: it might be a bullet hole, and I think it is, because if you look at the dorsal view of the same specimen below, a possible exit hole is apparent on the left side (there are two holes on the left side, actually, so I’m not sure what’s happened here). Also neat is that the lacrimal and maxilla are fused, so the antorbital fenestra is reduced to a tiny aperture. I didn’t only photograph this specimen, I also took time to draw part of the palate…



The most noteworthy thing about the Shoebill palate is that the palatines are completely fused along the midline. This is unusual, seen elsewhere only in such birds as toucans, hornbills and frogmouths (where the maxillae are fused along the midline as well, forming an extensive bony palate). On this occasion I was more interested in the fact that the palatines of this individual are strangely asymmetrical, with the right-side bone possessing a posteriorly projecting growth. I have no idea what this is and don’t know what difference it made to the bird when it was alive. This reminds me: one day I’ll publish a short article on neornithine palates. Anyone who’s anyone knows that the two great groups of crown-birds – palaeognaths and neognaths – are classically distinguished on the basis of palatal anatomy, but the key differences are hardly ever explained usefully in the literature. I’ll come back to this, be patient.

Finally, a masterpiece. I discovered the picture below by chance recently while clearing out a desk drawer: it was done in 1993, while I was at college, and comes from my brief phase of depicting poorly known fossil birds as interesting garish cartoons. The scene depicts animals preserved in the Jebel Qatrani Formation (deposited during the Late Eocene and Early Oligocene) of Egypt: the extinct shoebill Goliathia andrewsi is putting the smack down on the substantially larger Eremopezus eocaenus. Eremopezus (most recently analysed by Rasmussen et al. (2001)) is of uncertain affinities; a few similarities with palaeognaths have been mentioned on occasion, but (unlike a palaeognath) it seems to have been able to manipulate things with its toes, and superficial similarities with secretarybirds and…. shoebills were suggested by Rasmussen et al. (2001).

And, no, this is not meant to be a rigorously accurate bit of palaeontographic art: Goliathia is known only from an ulna (a partial shoebill tarsometatarsus from the Jebel Qatrani (Rasmussen et al. 1987) may also belong to it) and we have no real idea of what it looked like, while Eremopezus (looking here like a gastornithid) is known only from hindlimb elements and is also of unknown appearance (aaand I screwed up here in showing it lacking a hallux, whereas it definitely had one). As for the pigeon, err…


Having mentioned Goliathia, other fossil shoebill specimens are on record: the first is a partial distal end of a tarsometatarsus from the Upper Miocene of Tunisia, recognised as that of a shoebill by Rich (1972). Harrison & Walker (1982) later described a very similar fossil (also a partial distal end of a tarsometatarsus) from the Upper Miocene of Pakistan and suggested that it and the Tunisian fossil represented the same species, Paludiavis richae. If they’re right, then shoebills once inhabited Asia as well as Africa. And, for the sake of google, let me note here that Balaeniceps has conventionally been given its own ‘family’, Balaenicipitidae, and – sometimes – its own ‘order’ too, Balaenicipitiformes.

Incidentally, for more cartoons depicting obscure fossil birds, check out the Talpanas article here. For more on the Shoebill, see…

And for more on other Cenozoic fossil birds, and on neornithine birds probably closely related to the Shoebill, see…

Refs – -

Cottam, P. A. 1957. The pelecaniform characters of the skeleton of the Shoebill Stork Balaeniceps rex. Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History), Zoology 5, 51-72.

Hackett, S. J., Kimball, R. T., Reddy, S., Bowie, R. C. K., Braun, E. L., Braun, M. J., Cjojnowski, J. L., Cox, W. A., Han, K.-L., Harshman, J., Huddleston, C. J., Marks, B., Miglia, K. J., Moore, W. S., Sheldon, F. H., Steadman, D. W., Witt, C. C. & Yuri, T. 2008. A phylogenomic study of birds reveals their evolutionary history. Science 320, 1763-1768.

Harrison. C. J. O. & Walker, C. A. 1982. Fossil birds from the Upper Miocene of northern Pakistan. Tertiary Research 4, 53-69.

Mayr, G. (2003). The phylogenetic affinities of the Shoebill (Balaeniceps rex) Journal of Ornithology, 144 (2), 157-175 DOI: 10.1007/BF02465644

Rasmussen, D. T., Olson, S. L. & Simons, E. L. 1987. Fossil birds from the Oligocene Jebel Qatrani Formation, Fayum Province, Egypt. Smithsonian Contributions to Paleobiology 62, 1-20.

- ., Simons, E. L., Hertel, F. & Judd, A. 2001. Hindlimb of a giant terrestrial bird from the upper Eocene, Fayum, Egypt. Palaeontology 44, 325-337.

Rich, P. V., 1972. A fossil avifauna from the Upper Miocene Beglia Formation of Tunisia. Notes du Service géologique 35, 29-66.


So far, two fossil relatives of the shoebill have been described: Goliathia from the early Oligocene of Egypt and Paludavis from the Early Miocene of the same country. It has been suggested that the enigmatic African fossil bird Eremopezus was a relative too, but the evidence for that is unconfirmed. All that is known of Eremopezus is that it was a very large, probably flightless bird with a flexible foot, allowing it to handle either vegetation or prey.





The jugal is a skull bone found in most reptiles, amphibians and birds. In mammals, the jugal is often called the malar or Zygomatic. It is connected to the quadratojugal and maxilla, as well as other bones, which may vary by species.




The Pelecaniformes is a (possibly invalid) order of medium-sized and large waterbirds found worldwide. As traditionally—but erroneously—defined, they encompass all birds that have feet with all four toes webbed. Hence, they were formerly also known by such names as totipalmates or steganopodes. Most have a bare throat patch (gular patch), and the nostrils have evolved into dysfunctional slits, forcing them to breathe through their mouths. They feed on fish, squid or similar marine life. Nesting is colonial, but individual birds are monogamous. The young are altricial, hatching from the egg helpless and naked in most. They lack a brood patch.

In the all-encompassing "steganopode" circumscription, the Pelecaniformes had some 50 to 60 living species. However, modern opinion considers the apparent similarities the result of convergent evolution, and based on a wealth of evidence splits the classically defined "Pelecaniformes" into several groups. Most lineages—frigatebirds, gannets, cormorants and anhingas—do indeed constitute a natural group, for which the names Suliformes or Phalacrocoraciformes have been proposed. Tropicbirds are of unclear relationships, but appear to be a quite distinct lineage; they are typically placed in their own order, the Phaethontiformes. The pelicans (Pelecanidae), meanwhile, are linked to the storks (Ciconiidae) by two bizarre monotypic families, the hamerkop (Scopidae) and the shoebill (Balaenicipitidae). Indeed, they may be more closely related to storks than these are to herons. To overcome this confusion, it has been proposed to merge the "core" Pelecaniformes into the Ciconiiformes.






The five orders in the class Aves. The Balaeniceps rex is in the order Ciconiiformes, which you can see is a sister taxa to the Pelecaniformes. These are the two orders that scientists are debating which to correctly put the Shoebill into (Kahl 1972). This picture on the right shows multiple species in that are similar to the Balaeniceps rex. These are all birds in the order Pelecaniformes. Some scientists think that this should be the correct phylogeny of the Shoebill rather than putting it with the Ciconiiformes (Smith 2010). Now follow this link to find out more about the Habitat  of the Balaeniceps rex!





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Shoebill picks up a duck

Shoebill picks up duck

Shoebill picks up duck

This duck got himself all in a flap after inadvertently straying into the path of a giant Shoebill while heading towards water.

But it was all water off a duck's back for the imposing 4ft tall bird which instead of eating his smaller friend, carefully picked him up in his beak and moved him aside.

Despite its fearsome reputation as a predator around water, the Shoebill seemed more concerned with completing its journey than tucking into a feathered snack.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1225223/Dont-forget-duck-Giant-Shoebill-picks-feathered-friend-blocks-path.html#ixzz3ELgsVw3w
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Picozapato: rareza evolutiva

Paleogene Fossil Birds /// Gerald Mayr 2009


* Malcolm Allison H  2014


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  • Malcolm Allison H malcolm.mallison@gmail.com
  • Biólogo desde hace más de treinta años, desde la época en que aún los biólogos no eran empleados de los abogados ambientalistas. Actualmente preocupado …alarmado en realidad, por el LESIVO TRATADO DE(DES)INTEGRACIÓN ENERGÉTICA CON BRASIL
  • Biólogo desde hace más de treinta años, desde la época en que aún los biólogos no eran empleados de los abogados ambientalistas. Actualmente preocupado …alarmado en realidad, por el LESIVO TRATADO DE(DES)INTEGRACIÓN ENERGÉTICA CON BRASIL