Tag Archives: Anatidae

Anas gracilis ssp. ‘New Caledonia’

New Caledonian Grey Teal (Anas gracilis ssp.)

This form is known only from subfossil remains that had been found on the island of Grande Terre, New Caledonia.

This was probably an endemic form of the Grey Teal (Anas gracilis Buller), a species that is otherwise known from Australia, New Guinea and New Zealand, however, this species is sometimes found on New Caledonia as a vagrant, thus it is also possible that the subfossil remains descent from such vagrant birds. [1]

The form is mentioned here for the sake of completeness.

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References:

[1] David W. Steadman: Extinction and biogeography of Tropical Pacific Birds. University of Chicago Press 2006

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edited: 10.11.2021

Anatidae gen. & sp. ‘Mariana Islands’

Rota Duck (Anatidae gen. & sp.)

The Rota Duck is known so far only from subfossil bones that were recovered from deposits on the island of Rota in the Mariana Islands.

The species was small and probably flightless, not much else is known about it so far. [1]

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References:

[1] David W. Steadman: Extinct and extirpated birds from Rota, Mariana Islands. Micronesia 25(1): 71-84. 1992

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edited: 10.11.2021

Neochen pugil (Winge)

Minas Gerais Goose (Neochen pugil)

This species was described in 1888 based on fossil bones that were found in Minas Gerais, Brazil.

The remains were dated to Late Pleistocene to Early Holocene; thus, the species is briefly mentioned here. [1]

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References:

[1] O. Winge: Fugle fra Knoglehuler i Brasilien. E Museo Lundii 1(2): 1-54. 1888

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edited: 17.02.2020

Anas sp. ‘Macquarie Islands’

Macquarie Island Duck (Anas sp.)

 

The Macquarie Island Duck is known only from subfossil bones that were recovered from deposits on the island of Macquarie in the subantarctic Pacific Ocean. [1]

This was a flightless duck, very much alike the likewise flightless Auckland Teal (Anas aucklandica Gray) which inhabits the Auckland Islands in the subantarctic part of New Zealand or the Campbell Island teal (Anas nesiotis J. H. Fleming), which again is restricted to the subantarctic Campbell Islands, and which once was also almost extinct.

The Macquarie Island Duck certainly fell victim to the cats that had been imported to its island home by sailors and whalers that used Macquarie Island as a base camp.

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References:

[1] Trevor H. Worthy, Richard N. Holdaway: The Lost World of the Moa, Prehistoric Life of New Zealand. Indiana University Press, Bloomington 2002
[2] Alan J. D. Tennyson; R. Paul Scofiled: Holocene fossil bird remains from subantarctic Macquarie Island. Paleornithological Research. Proceed. 8th Internat. Meeting Society of Avian Paleontology and Evolution 2013

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Auckland Teal (Anas aucklandica Gray) (the two birds on the right) together with New Zealand Brown Duck (Anas chlorotis)

Depiction from: ‘John C. Phillips: A Natural History of the Ducks. Boston; Houghton Mifflin Company; 1922-1926’

(public domain)

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edited: 10.11.2021

Talpanas lippa Olson & James

Mole Duck (Talpanas lippa)

The Mole Duck, or Kauai Mole Duck was described in 2009 based on subfossil remains found on the island of Kaua’i, Hawaiian Islands.

The species was flightless and apparently had extremely small eyes and thus might have been almost blind in life, it had a distinct wide beak which it very likely used for probing the soil for invertebrates. [1]

The Mole Dock most likely disappeared, together with countless additional species, when humans first reached the Hawaiian Islands.

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References:    

[1] A. L. Iwaniuk; S. L. Olson; H. F. James: Extraordinary cranial specialization in a new genus of extinct duck (Aves: Anseriformes) from Kauai, Hawaiian Islands. Zootaxa 2296: 47–67. 2009

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edited: 13.09.2020

Branta rhuax (Wetmore)

Giant Nene (Branta rhuax)

The Giant Nene was already described in 1943, its remains were found in 1926 at a depth of 25 m under a lava flow near a place named Kaumaike’ohu in the Ka’u District on the island of Hawai’i; it was actually the first fossil bird described from the Hawaiian Islands.

This form has widely been synonymized with a very large goose, that is known from subfossil remains also found on Hawai’i Island.

The Giant Nene was the largest member of the large Hawaiian goose radiation, it was more than twice the size of the still living Nene (Branta sandvicensis (Vigors)).

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References:

[1] S. L. Olson; H. F. James: Descriptions of thirty-two new species of birds from the Hawaiian Islands: Part I. Non-Passeriformes. Ornithological Monographs 45: 1-91. 1991

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edited: 05.05.2022

Branta sp. ‘O’ahu’

Oahu Nene (Branta sp.)

The Oahu Nene is known from subfossil remains that were found at Barbers Point in the southwest part of O’ahu, Hawaiian Islands.

This form is quite similar to the Great Nene (Branta hylobadistes Olson & James) from Maui Island, but its hindlimb elements were generally longer and more gracile; the form shows furthermore a great variation in size, especially of the wing elements. [1]

***

The Oahu Nene occurred sympatrically with the Nene (Branta sandvicensis (Vigors)), the sole surviving species of the now extinct Hawaiian goose radiation.

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References:

[1] S. L. Olson; H. F. James: Descriptions of thirty-two new species of birds from the Hawaiian Islands: Part I. Non-Passeriformes. Ornithological Monographs 45: 1-91. 1991

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edited: 05.05.2022

Branta hutchinsii ssp. asiatica Aldrich

Bering Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii ssp. asiatica)

The Bering Cackling Goose was described in 1946; it is thought to have been breeding on the Komandorski- and the Kuril Islands offshore the Kamchatka Peninsula in the Bering Sea.

This form disappeared sometimes during the 1920s, probably due to overhunting.

***

The Bering Cackling Goose is often treated as being identical with the Aleutian Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii ssp. leucopareia (Delacour)) (see photo below).

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References:

[1] John W. Aldrich: Speciation in the White-cheeked Geese. The Wilson Bulletin 58(2): 94-103. 1946

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Aleutian Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii ssp. leucopareia)

Foto: Alexander Lang

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edited: 05.05.2022

Anas chlorotis ssp. ‘Chatham Islands’

Chatham Islands Brown Duck (Anas chlorotis ssp.)

The Chatham Islands Brown Duck is only known from subfossil remains found on the Chatham Islands, that have not yet been described, it may have been a subspecies of the New Zealand Brown Duck (Anas chlorotisGray) (see depiction below) or even a distinct species.

The taxon was apparently already wiped out by the Moriori, the first human settlers on the Chatham Islands. [1]

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References:

[1] Trevor H. Worthy, Richard N. Holdaway: The Lost World of the Moa, Prehistoric Life of New Zealand. Indiana University Press, Bloomington 2002

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New Zealand Brown Duck (Anas chlorotis) (the two birds on the left) together with Auckland Teal (Anas aucklandica Gray)

Depiction from: ‘John C. Phillips: A Natural History of the Ducks. Boston; Houghton Mifflin Company; 1922-1926’

(public domain)

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edited: 10.11.2021

Tadorna sp. ‘Chatham Islands’

Chatham Island Shelduck (Tadorna sp.)

The Chatham Islands once harbored a set of endemic bird species that were closely realted to those on the New Zealand main islands, yet distinct enough to be considered distinct species, the same applies to this duck species, which is known from subfossil remains and which has not yet been described.

The closest relative of the Chatham Island Shelduck were the Australian Shelduck (Tadorna tadornoides(Jardine & Selby)) from Australia and the Paradise Shelduck (Tadorna variegata (Gmelin)) which is endemic to New Zealand (see photo).

The Chatham Island Shelduck probably disappeared soon after the Chatham Islands were discovered and settled by humans. [1]

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References:  

[1] Trevor H. Worthy, Richard N. Holdaway: The Lost World of the Moa, Prehistoric Life of New Zealand. Indiana University Press, Bloomington 2002

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Paradise Shelduck (left); Australian Shelduck (right)

Depiction from: ‘John C. Phillips: A Natural History of the Ducks. Boston; Houghton Mifflin Company; 1922-1926’  

(public domain)

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edited: 13.09.2020

Branta sp. ‘Kaua’i’

Medium Kauai Nene (Branta sp.)
The Medium Kauai Nene is known only from the subfossil remains of one individual that were recovered from the deposits of the Makawehi Dunes on the island of Kaua’i, Hawaiian Islands.

This form was more robust than the likewise extinct form known from O’ahu. [1]

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References:

[1] S. L. Olson; H. F. James: Descriptions of thirty-two new species of birds from the Hawaiian Islands: Part I. Non-Passeriformes. Ornithological Monographs 45: 1-91. 1991

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edited: 05.05.2022

Anas acuta ssp. modesta Tristram

Sydney Island Pintail (Anas acuta ssp. modesta 

The Northern Pintail (Anas acuta L.) is a holarctic species, which inhabits the whole north of Europe, Asia and North America, as a migrating bird this species can appear almost everywhere, including the remotest islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  

The imagination, that, in this way, some of these birds may colonise new and suitable-appearing regions is compelling – and in no way unreasonable.  

***

The form, discussed here, nearly unknown, and probably invalid by the way, is known only on the basis of three specimens (a male and two females), which were collected on the island of Manra (formerly Sydney Island) in the Phoenix group of Kiribati.  

This may have been resident birds, or rather nothing but wintering Northern Pintails in subadult plumage, the author of this form, H. B. Tristram, contemplated about them (On an apparently new Species of Duck (Dafila) from the Central Pacific).:  

The only note I have respecting it is, that there were no Ducks on the island on Mr. Arundel’s arrival, but that afterwards they appeared, and were tolerably numerous for a time. I gather from this remark that it is probably a migrant from one island to another, and a glance at the position of Sidney Island on the map will show that a Duck may enjoy a considerable range of migration in those regions, without necessarily coming under the eye of a collector.”  

***

However, see also David W. Steadman (Extinction and Biogeography of Tropical Pacific Birds).:  

… Other resident ducks, currently unknown, probably have been lost since human arrival. Perhaps the northern pintail Anas acuta, with more migrant records in Oceania than any other temperate species of duck … developed resident populations on some remote islands. …”  

So, as mentioned before, this form is perhaps invalid respectively identical with the nominate race – but it shall be mentioned here for the sake of completeness, and not least as a kind of anticipation for all prospectively to be discovered, extinct duck forms, which certainly have existed on many islands of the Pacific Ocean.  

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References:  

[1] H. B. Tristram: On an apparently new Species of Duck (Dafila) from the Central Pacific. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 79-80. 1886 
[2] David W. Steadman: Extinction and Biogeography of Tropical Pacific Birds. University of Chicago Press 2006  

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Depiction from: ‘H. B. Tristram: On an apparently new Species of Duck (Dafila) from the Central Pacific. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 79-80. 1886’ 

(public domain)

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edited: 17.10.2020

Mergus milleneri Williams & Tennyson

Chatham Island Merganser (Mergus milleneri)  

The extinct Chatham Island Merganser, which was originally described in 2014, is known only on the basis of subfossil bones which were excavated in the 1990s.  

The species was originally regarded as being identical with the Auckland Islands Merganser (Mergus australis Hombron & Jacquinot), which is likewise extinct. The two species, however, are clearly osteologically separable (by their bone structure), and, as known meanwhile, also genetically. The Chatham Island Merganser was smaller than the species from the Auckland Islands, it furthermore possessed a shorter head and somewhat downscaled wings. [1][2]  

***

The Chatham Island Merganser was probably endemic to Chatham Island, where it inhabited the so called ‘Te Whanga Lagoon’, a giant salt lake that makes out a large part of Chatham Island and which represents the remainder of a former part of the sea that has become an internal water due to silting.  

The bird possessed enlarged salt glands in its skull, which it used to exude unnecessary salt.  

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References:  

[1] Trevor H. Worthy, Richard N. Holdaway: The Lost World of the Moa, Prehistoric Life of New Zealand. Indiana University Press, Bloomington 2002 
[2] Murray Williams; Alan J. D. Tennyson; Dalice Sim: Island differentiation of New Zealand’s extinct mergansers (Anatidae: Mergini), with description of a new species from Chatham Island. Wildfowl 64: 3-34. 2014  

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edited: 08.03.2017

Anas gracilis ssp. remissa Ripley

Rennell Island Teal (Anas gracilis ssp. remissa)

The island of Rennell is about 654 km² large and lies in the southeastern part of the Solomon islands chain; the easternmost part of that island is covered by a very large former lagoon which is now closed and filled with freshwater –  Lake Tenggano.

This lake was the sole home of a somewhat enigmatic duck, the Rennell Island Teal, which officially is considered a subspecies of the Sunda Teal (Anas gibberifrons Müller), a species that actually only inhabits parts of Indonesia, thus this assignment is probably quite wrong and it more likely should be assigned to the Grey Teal (Anas gracilis Buller) (see photo below).

The Rennell Island Teal differed only slightly from the Grey Teal and may in fact just have been a resident population of this very widespread trampy species.

The native duck population of Rennell Island begun to dwindle after the introduction of Mozambique Tilapias (Oreochromis mossambicus (W. K. H. Peters)) into Lake Tenggano; the last ducks were finally seen in 1959.

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Grey Teal (Anas gracilis)

Photo: Glen Fergus

(under creative commons license (3.0))
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

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edited: 10.11.2021

Oxyura vantetsi Worthy

New Zealand Stiff-tailed Duck (Oxyura vantetsi)

The New Zealand Stiff-tailed Duck was described in 2005 based on subfossil remains.

The species appears to have been rather rare, since only 19 bones are currently known of it; it was apparently hunted to extinction by the first Maori settlers already in the 16th century.

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edited: 02.05.2022

Anas georgica ssp. niceforoi Wetmore & Borrero

Niceforo’s Pintail (Anas georgica ssp. niceforoi 

The Pintail inhabits large parts of South America, two or three subspecies are recognized.  

The extinct subspecies discussed here, Niceforo’s Pintail, once inhabited the higher altitude regions of Colombia. The birds, which reached a length of 61 to 71 cm, were first described as a distinct form in the year 1940.  

The local duck-hunters, however, already knew them for a much longer time, they called the birds Pato Pico de Oro de Colombia resp. Pato Pico de Oro de Nicéforo, and studiously hunted them, and finally managed to extirpate the whole population within the next 12 years.  

The last birds were seen in the year 1952 (or 1956, according to other sources).  

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References:  

[1] Steve Madge; Hilary Burn: Waterfowl: An identification guide to the Ducks, Geese and Swans of the World. Houghton Mifflin, Boston 1988  

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Pintail (Anas georgica Gmelin), nominate race; bird on the left

Depiction from: ‘John C. Phillips: A Natural History of the Ducks. Boston; Houghton Mifflin Company; 1922-1926’ 

(public domain)

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edited: 17.10.2020

Dendrocygna sp. ‘Aitutaki’

Cook Islands Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna sp.)

This species is known so far only from a single subfossil, a complete terminal phalanx of a third pes digit. 

This single remain points to a very large species, much larger than any other related species. [1]

***

The only other whistling duck species that is known to have at least historically bred withing the Polynesian region is the Wandering Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna arcuata ssp. pygmaea Mayr), that once inhabited the Fiji Islands, where it is, however, extinct now. 

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References:

[1] David W. Steadman: Extinct and extirpated birds from Aitutaki and Atiu, southern Cook Islands. Pacific Science 45(4): 325-347. 1991

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Wandering Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna arcuata); nominate form (bird in the middle)

Depiction from: ‘John C. Phillips: A Natural History of the Ducks. Boston; Houghton Mifflin Company; 1922-1926’  

(public domain)

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edited: 11.06.2020

Centrornis majori Andrews

Madagascar Sheldgoose (Centrornis majori)

The Madagascar Sheldgoose was a large goose that once inhabited Madagascar, it was described on the basis of fossil bones that are dated to a Late Pleistocene age, however, it is quite sure that this species survived into the early Holocene, thus it is mentioned here.

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edited: 01.11.2020

Neochen barbadiana (Brodkorb)

Barbados Goose (Neochen barbadiana)

The Barbados Goose was described in 1965 based on foissl remains that had been found on the island of Barbados in the Lesser Antilles.

The remains were dated to Late Pleistocene age, but the form might well have survived into the early Holocene and is thus mentioned here for the sake of completness. [1][2]

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References:

[1] P. Brodkorb: Fossil birds from Barbados, West Indies. The Journal of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society 31(1): 3-10. 1965
[2] Samuel T. Turvey: Holocene Extinctions. Oxford University Press, USA 2009

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edited: 17.02.2020

Anas sp. ‚Viti Levu‘

Fiji Teal (Anas sp.)  

This, up to now undescribed species is known only from a single subfossil bone, a scapula that was found in the Vatumu cave near the city of Nadi in the west part of the island of Viti Levu.  

The species was most probably closely related to the Australian Chestnut Teal (Anas castanea (Eyton)) resp. to the Australian Grey Teal (Anas gracilis Buller). [1]  

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References:  

[1] Geoffrey Richard Clark; Atholl Anderson: The early prehistory of Fiji. Terra Australis 31, Canberra: ANU ePress, December 2009

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edited: 18.10.2020

Chelychelynechen quassus Olson & James

Turtle-jawed Moa-nalo (Chelychelynechen quassus)

The Turtle-jawed Moa-nalo was described in 1991; it is known only based on subfossil remains that were recovered in 1976 from the Makawehi dunes on the south-eastern coast of the island of Kaua’i, Hawaiian Islands.

In life this species must have looked like a very big and thick goose with tiny wings and with a shortened beak which was as high as it was long; nevertheless it was most closely related to the duck genus Anas.

The species fed on several plants, and even today many of these former food plants exist and show typical adaptions of heavily-browsed plant species like rough, hirsute leaves are thorny stems and leaves.

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References:

[1] S. L. Olson; H. F. James: Descriptions of thirty-two new species of birds from the Hawaiian Islands: Part I. Non-Passeriformes. Ornithological Monographs 45: 1-91. 1991

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edited: 08.08.2022

Cygnus sumnerensis ssp. sumnerensis Forbes

New Zealand Swan (Cygnus sumnerensis ssp. sumnerensis)

The New Zealand Swan was described in 1890 based on subfossil remains, which, however, were apparantly lost later. The name was then declared a nomen nudum and the species was redescribed (using only bones from Chatham Islands birds) as Cygnus chathamensis Oliver in the 1950s. [1]

***

The species was for some time thought to have been identical to the Australian Black Swan (Cygnus atratus Latham) (see photo), a species that was deliberately introduced to New Zealand in 1864, though there is evidence for self-introduction around this time and possibly prior to this. [1]

The remains of the New Zealand Swan were compared to those of the Australian species and it was found that both differed significantly from each other by their size, but only in 2017 DNA samples were compared which showed that both swan forms were indeed distinct from each other. The New Zealand Swan was closely related to the Australian Black Swan but differed from it by being larger and more stoutly build, it is furthermore split into two subspecies, one, the nominate, formerly inhabiting the main islands and one having been endemic to the Chatham Islands. [1]

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References:

[1] Nicolas J. Rawlence; Afroditi Kardamaki; Luke J. Easton; Alan J. D. Tennyson; R. Paul Scofield; Jonathan M. Waters: Ancient DNA and morphometric analysis reveal extinction and replacement of New Zealand’s unique black swans. Proceedings of Royal Society B. Biological Science 284: 20170876. 2017

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Australian Black Swan (Cygnus atratus Latham)

Photo: Anagoria

(under creative commons license (3.0))
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

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edited: 17.04.2019

aff. Tadorna sp. ‘Kaua’i’

Kauai Shelduck (aff. Tadorna sp.)

This hitherto undescribed form is known from several subfossil bones that were found in 2001 (?) in the Maha’ulepu Cave on the island of Kaua’i, Hawaiian Islands.  

These bones appear to belong to a kind of waterfowl not closely related to any of the known Hawaiian waterfowl species, including both living and extinct species. [1]  

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References:  

[1] Samuel T. Turvey: Holocene Extinctions. Oxford University Press, USA 2009

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edited: 07.01.2011