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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.11646/zootaxa.3849.1.1

Systematics, morphology, and ecological history of the Mascarene starlings (Aves: Sturnidae) with the description of a new genus and species from Mauritius

JULIAN PENDER HUME

Abstract


Two endemic starlings, both extinct, have been described from the Mascarene Islands of Réunion and Rodrigues: the Hoopoe Starling, Huppe or Réunion Crested Starling Fregilupus varius, which is known from 19 skins and a single Holocene proximal end of a fossil femur, and the Rodrigues Starling Necropsar rodericanus, which is known as specimens only from fossils of most skeletal elements. Both were recorded alive in early accounts of Mascarene faunas. A third species of starling Cryptopsar ischyrhynchus gen. nov. sp. nov. is described herein from fossils from Mauritius, but was never reported in the early literature. This paper provides an analysis of the Sturnidae of the Mascarene Islands based on newly discovered fossil remains, and details historical reports and accounts. Their ecology and extinction are interpreted from historical evidence. Necropsar, Cryptopsar and Fregilupus clearly form part of the same clade, but morphological analysis shows that Necropsar and Cryptopsar are more closely related to each other than to Fregilupus and may have been part of a different colonisation event. All three genera appear to have their origins in SE Asia and have morphological similarities with the SE Asian sturnid genera, Sturnia and Gracupica, so they presumably colonised the islands via island-hopping during lower sea level stands.

 


Keywords


Mascarene starlings, Sturnidae, Fregilupus, Necropsar, Cryptopsar, extinction, affinities, ecology

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