Tag Archives: Azores

Rallus sp. ‘Terceira’

Terceira Rail (Rallus sp.)

This form is known from not less than 13 associated skeletons which were recovered from cave deposits on the island of Terceira, one of the Azores Islands, Portugal, most of which, however, with fragmentary bones only.

The Terceira Rail was a member of the genus Rallus but has not yet being described. [1]

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There is a very exceptional specimen that can be assigned to this species that was found in Algar do Carvão, a chimney of a former volcano in the center of Terceina. This specimen is of an individual that was mummified by natural processes and is now preserved as a three-dimensional body still bearing soft body parts, skin and feathers “wrapped” in a silicified crust. [1]

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References:

[1] Josep Antoni Alcover; Harald Pieper; Fernando Pereira; Juan Carlos Rando: Five new extinct species of rails (Aves: Gruiformes: Rallidae) from the Macaronesian Islands (North Atlantic Ocean). Zootaxa 4057(2): 151-190. 2015

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edited: 10.09.2019

Rallus montivagorum Alcover, Pieper, Pereira & Rando

Pico Rail (Rallus montivagorum)

The Pico Rail was described in 2015, it is known from subfossil material that had been collected in 2013 at a place named Furna das Torres on the island of Pico, Azores, Portugal.

The species derived from the European mainland Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus L.) and differed from that species by its slighly smaller size and a reduced sternum which indicates that it probably was completely flightless.

Some of the remains could be dated to an age of about 1405 to 1450, that is around the same time when Portugese begun to colonize the Azores. [1]

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References:

[1] Josep Antoni Alcover; Harald Pieper; Fernando Pereira; Juan Carlos Rando: Five new extinct species of rails (Aves: Gruiformes: Rallidae) from the Macaronesian Islands (North Atlantic Ocean). Zootaxa 4057(2): 151-190. 2015

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edited: 10.09.2019

Otus frutuosoi Rando, Alcover, Olson & Pieper

Sao Miguel Scops Owl (Otus frutuosoi)

The Sao Miguel Scops Owl was described in 2013 based on subfossil remains that had been recovered from Quatrnary deposits on the island of São Miguel in the Azores.

The species had relatively longer legs and shorter wings than the Eurasian Scops Owl (Otus scops (L.)); it was generally a ground-dwelling bird that apparently was on the way of becoming flightless. [1]

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It is very likely that additional species of scops owls inhabited the others of the Azores Islands.

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References:

[1] Juan Carlos Rando; Josep Antoni Alcover; Storrs L. Olson; & Harald Pieper: A new species of extinct scops owl (Aves: Strigiformes: Strigidae: Otus) from São Miguel Island (Azores Archipelago), North Atlantic Ocean. Zootaxa. 3647 (2): 343–357. 2013

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edited: 02.05.2022

Rallus sp. ‘Santa Maria’

Santa Maria Rail (Rallus sp.)

This form is known from ten subfossil bones, most of them fragmentary only, collected on the island of Santa Maria in the Azores group, Portugal.

The Santa Maria Rail most likely was a distinct species. [1]

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References:

[1] Josep Antoni Alcover; Harald Pieper; Fernando Pereira; Juan Carlos Rando: Five new extinct species of rails (Aves: Gruiformes: Rallidae) from the Macaronesian Islands (North Atlantic Ocean). Zootaxa 4057(2): 151-190. 2015

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edited: 10.09.2019

Leptaxis vetusta (Morelet & Drouet)

Ancient Leptaxis Snail (Leptaxis vetusta)  

The Ancient Leptaxis Snail is a species that is known exclusively from fossil and subfossil shells that were recovered from Late Pleistocene and Holocene deposits on the island of Santa Maria, Azores.

The species disappeared due to several reasons.:

Why became extinct this helicid? The explanation for the decline and extinction of this species is surely associated to environmental changes occurred inside its area of habitat, during last centuries. Evidences include (1) the destruction of the original laurel cover of Santa Maria, and the anthropic introduction of new botanic species; (2) a colonization by the introduced and opportunistic Otala lactea (Muller, 1774), one of the commonest and widespread land snails of the island.” [1]

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References:

[1] Pedro Callapez; A. Ferreira Soares; J. Marques: Rediscovery of Leptaxis vetusta (Morelet & Drouet, 1857), a subfossil land snail from the Quaternary of Santa Maria (Azores). Ciências da Terra (UNL) 15: 209-218. 2003 

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Depiction from: ‘Arthur Morelet: Iles Açores. Notice sur l’histoire naturelle des Açores suivie d’une description des mollusques terrestres de cet archipel. Paris, Baillière 1860’

(public domain)

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edited: 17.06.2020

Rallus sp. ‘Graciosa’

Graciosa Rail (Rallus sp.)

This up to now unnamed form is known from 21 subfossil bones, 12 of them only fragments, collected in 2014 on the island of Graciosa in the Azores, Portugal.

The form has not yet being described but can be assigned to the genus Rallus and most likely was a distinct species. [1]

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References:

[1] Josep Antoni Alcover; Harald Pieper; Fernando Pereira; Juan Carlos Rando: Five new extinct species of rails (Aves: Gruiformes: Rallidae) from the Macaronesian Islands (North Atlantic Ocean). Zootaxa 4057(2): 151-190. 2015

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edited: 10.09.2019

Bradycellus chavesi Alluaud

Chaves’ Ground Beetle (Bradycellus chavesi)

This species was described in 1919 based on a single female specimen that was collected on the island of São Miguel in the Azores.

Chaves’ Ground Beetle appears to have had very reduced hindwings and thus was apparently flightless.

The species was never found again since its description and is considered extinct. [1][2]

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References:

[1] Sofia Terzopulou; François Rigal; Robert J. Whittaker; Paulo A. V. Borges; Kostas A. Triantis: Drivers of Extinction: the case of Azorean beetles. Biological Letters 11(6): 1-32. 2015
[2] Paulo Alexandre Vieira Borges; Lucas Lamelas-López; Isabel R. Amorim; Anja Danielczak; Rui Nunes; Artur R.M. Serrano; Mário Boieiro; Carla Rego; Axel Hochkirch; Virgílio Vieira: Conservation status of the forest beetles (Insecta: Coleoptera) from the Azores, Portugal. Biodiversity Data Journal 5: e14557. 2017

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edited: 04.12.2018

Rallus carvaoensis Alcover, Pieper, Pereira & Rando

Sao Miguel Rail (Rallus carvaoensis)

The Sao Miguel Rail was described in 2015 based on subfossil remains that had been excavated from deposits from the Gruta do Carvão on the island of São Miguel, one of the Azores Islands, Portugal.

Like its congeners from the other islands of the Azores, also known by subfossil remains, this one too was a derivative of the Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus L.) from the European mainland. [1]

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References:

[1] Josep Antoni Alcover; Harald Pieper; Fernando Pereira; Juan Carlos Rando: Five new extinct species of rails (Aves: Gruiformes: Rallidae) from the Macaronesian Islands (North Atlantic Ocean). Zootaxa 4057(2): 151-190. 2015

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edited: 10.09.2019

Nesotes azoricus (Crotch)

Azores Darkling Beetle (Nesotes azoricus 

The Azores Darkling Beetle was described in 1867.  

The species was endemic to the island of São Miguel in the Azores, Portugal,  where it was last recorded in 1930 in a single patch of exotic forest in the valley of Furnas in the southern corner of the island.  

The Azores Darkling Beetle is now most likely extinct.  

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References:  

[1] Sofia Terzopulou; François Rigal; Robert J. Whittaker; Paulo A. V. Borges; Kostas A. Triantis: Drivers of Extinction: the case of Azorean beetles. Biological Letters 11(6): 1-32. 2015 
[2] Paulo Alexandre Vieira Borges; Lucas Lamelas-López; Isabel R. Amorim; Anja Danielczak; Rui Nunes; Artur R.M. Serrano; Mário Boieiro; Carla Rego; Axel Hochkirch; Virgílio Vieira: Conservation status of the forest beetles (Insecta: Coleoptera) from the Azores, Portugal. Biodiversity Data Journal 5: e14557. 2017  

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edited: 15.09.2019

Vicia dennesiana H. C. Watson

Sao Miguel Vetch (Vicia dennesiana 

This is a somewhat enigmatic species which was actually described from cultivated plants kept in the garden of Hewett Cottrell Watson, the species’ author.  

Some of these plants were also brought to the Royal Botanical Garden in Kew, Great Britain, but unfortunately all propagation efforts failed.  

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The Sao Miguel Vetch apparently was restricted to the island of São Miguel in the Azores, Portugal, where it was only ever recorded (sometimes between 1944 and 1949) from the Serra da Tronqueira. The only known population apparently was destroyed by a landslide, however, introduced grazing mammals may have played a much bigger role in its extinction.  

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Depiction from: ‘Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, Vol. 113, 1887’  

(public domain)

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edited: 29.05.2019

Columba sp. ‘Azores’

Azores Mountain Pigeon (Columba sp.)

Today the Azores Islands harbor a single native (actually even endemic) (sub)species of pigeon, the Azores Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus ssp. azorica (Tschusi)), however, there was once at least one more species.

This now lost pigeon taxon, however, is known only from a single account in a manuscript from the late 16th century, namely from “Saudades da Terra” written between 1586 and 1590 by a father Gaspar Frutuoso.:

Posto que muitas aves vieram aqui de fora a esta terra, nela se acharam algumas maneirasde pombos, como naturais dela, uns pretos que chamavam pombos da serra, que matavam àstrochadas com paus e aguilhadas e com lanças, nos paus e nas árvores, tão tolos eram, pelapouca comunicação da gente, que tudo esperavam; estes eram da terra. Outros houvecinzentos, que chamavam torcazes, que eu cuido serem naturais, mas alguns dizem quevieram depois aqui de fora, porque dantes os não havia, e multiplicaram tanto que agora há aímuitos, nas Furnas e na serra sobre a Povoação Velha. E há tão grande número deles naAchada e Fenais da Maia, que cobrem as terras como entra Março, e às vezes fazem perdanas novidades de trigo e linho, derribando as paveias no campo. Estes sempre foram maisrecatados e dificultosos de caçar e tomar; mas os pretos, indo-os a caçar, atirando-lhe do pé daárvore com a besta a um, derribando aquele, os outros que na árvore estavam, olhando abaixopara aquele que caía, se deixavam estar quedos e tornando a atirar a outros e a derribá-losmortos, os que ficavam em cima da árvore faziam o mesmo, deixando-se estar tolamente, atéque o besteiro matava deles quantos queria.

[My humble] Translation:

Although many birds came to this land from the outside, some kinds of pigeons were found as natives, some black ones that they called pigeons of the mountains, that they killed with sticks and with spears, on the poles and in the trees, so foolish they were, because they had little knowledge of men, that they wait for everything; these ones were from this land. Others ashy-grey, they called them wood pigeons, which I think to be natural, but some say they came later here from outside, because before there were no, and multiplied so much that now there are fine, at Furnas and the mountains above Povoação Velha [the village Povoação?]. And there are so many of them at Achada and Fenais da Maia, they cover the land like a windy weather, and sometimes they make losses of wheat and flax, breaking down the sheafs in the field. These have always been less reckless and difficult to hunt and to take; but the blacks were easy to hunt, shooting them from the foot of the tree with the crossbow, and knocking down one, the others stayed in the tree, looking down at the one who fell, kept still and going on shooting others those who stood on the tree did the same, remaining there foolishly, till the crossbowman would slay of them as many as he wanted.

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An interesting study from 2011 showed that the Azores Wood Pigeon is not a monophyletic species but in fact is a hybrid population of the nominate race of the European Wood Pigeon and another species, the extinct Azores Mountain Pigeon. The author of the study, however, not knowing this 16th century account, thinks that this may have been the Dark-tailed Laurel Pigeon (Columba bollii Godman) from the Canary Islands or the Madeiran Laurel Pigeon (Columba trocaz Heineken). [1]

Apparently Wood Pigeons only begun to settle the Azores sometimes during the 16th century, they soon multiplied and took over the islands, crossing with the last remaining endemic pigeons and finally hybridize them into extinction. But at least some of the genes of the extinct endemic pigeon species still live on in the Azores Wood Pigeons of today.

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References:

[1] Ana Catarina Gonçalves Dourado: Phylogeny and phylogeography of Atlantic Islands’ Columba species. Dissertation, Universidade de Lisboa 2011

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edited: 12.01.2019