Tag Archives: Scytalopus

Scytalopus sp. ‘Cuba’

Cuban Tapaculo (Scytalopus sp.)  

The tapaculos are a strictly South American family of about 35 terrestrial, small to middle-sized birds, some are nearly flightless.  

These birds do not appear to have any capability for dispersal over water, yet at least one genus appears to have reached at least the Greater Antilles.  


The Cuban Tapaculo is known so far from only two subfossil respectively fossil remains; a humerus, recovered from cave deposits on the Isla de Juventud, and a tibiotarsus collected in the Camagüey Province.  

The humerus from the Isla de Juventud is probably of Holocene age, as it was found together with bones of rats (Rattus spp.). The tibiotarsus from the Camagüey Province, however, appears to be older, being from a deposit that also contained many bones of mammals that are now extinct but lacked bones of post-Colombian mice and rats.  

The species very likely disappeared shortly after the arrival of the first Europeans in the 15th century, it may have been eliminated by the introduced predatory mammals, for which such a small, nearly or even fully flightless bird probably was an easy target.  



[1] Storrs L. Olson; Evgeny N. Kurochkin: Fossil evidence of a tapaculo in the Quaternary of Cuba (Aves: Passeriformes: Scytalopodidae). Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 100(2): 353-357. 1987  


Depiction: Alexander Lang  


edited: 10.11.2017