Merton's parrot

Nelepsittacus donmertoni Worthy, Tennyson & Scofield, 2011

Order: Psittaciformes

Family: Strigopidae

New Zealand status: Endemic

Conservation status: Extinct

Other names: Mertons parrot

 
 
Merton's parrot. Holotype (right tarsometatarsus), S.052016, Te Papa. . Image © Te Papa

Merton's parrot. Holotype (right tarsometatarsus), S.052016, Te Papa. . Image © Te Papa

Merton’s parrot is the middle in size of three congeneric parrot species described from the 19-16 million-year-old St Bathans Fauna from central Otago. Nelepsittacus is placed in the endemic family Strigopidae (kakapo, kaka, kea), and is considered closest to the genus Nestor (kaka and kea). Merton’s parrot was similar in size to a crimson rosella.

Merton’s parrot was described from 60 bones recovered from 19-16 million-year-old (Early Miocene) lake-bed deposits near the Manuherikia River, St Bathans, central Otago. The holotype (NMNZ S.52016, an almost complete right tarsometatarsus), three paratypes and all associated material are held at Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.

The genus name denotes these Miocene fossil parrots as being on the ancestral lineage of Nestor (kaka and kea). The name is derived from Greek mythology, where Neleus was the father of Nestor, combined with psittakos (Greek for parrot). The species name and common name are in recognition of Don Merton (1939-2011) for his major contribution to the conservation of New Zealand birds, and in particular of kakapo.

The St Bathans fossil parrots confirmed the presence of the endemic family Strigopidae in New Zealand for at least 16 million years. The lineage leading to kakapo had apparently already diverged before this date, although bones referable to a kakapo ancestor have yet to be identified from the St Bathans Fauna.

Weblinks

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nelepsittacus

http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/fossils/6/1

References

Worthy, T.H.; Tennyson, A.J.D.; Scofield, R.P. 2011. An Early Miocene diversity of parrots (Aves, Strigopidae, Nestorinae) from New Zealand. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 31: 1102-1116.

Recommended citation

Miskelly, C.M. 2013. Merton’s parrot. In Miskelly, C.M. (ed.) New Zealand Birds Online. www.nzbirdsonline.org.nz

Merton's parrot

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