Taxonomy of North and South Island snipe (Aves: Scolopacidae: Coenocorypha) with analysis of a remarkable collection of snipe bones from Greymouth, New Zealand

TH Worthy; CM Miskelly; RA Ching

Abstract

The taxonomy of the extinct New Zealand snipe (Coenocorypha spp.), formerly resident in both the North and South Islands, is addressed by morphometric analysis of fossil bones from widespread localities in both islands compared with a large sample of South Island snipe bones from a fossil site at Cobden Quarry, Greymouth. A single radiocarbon age of 3656 ± 80 yr BP and the presence of the Pacific rat Rattus exulans (Peale, 1848), introduced to New Zealand c. 650 yr BP or perhaps as early as 2000 yr BP, indicates a late Holocene age for the Cobden fauna. Comparisons of the North and South Island fossil bones with historically known or extant taxa from offshore islands support the specific distinction of North and South Island birds, and their referral to C. barrierensis Oliver, 1995 or North Island snipe and C. iredalei Rothschild, 1921 or South Island snipe, respectively. In addition, the mensural data support the elevation of the Snares Island snipe to species level as C. huegeli (Tristram, 1893). The data support the taxonomic status quo for Chatham Island snipe C. pusilla (Buller, 1869), Auckland Island snipe C. aucklandica aucklandica (G. R. Gray, 1845), and Antipodes Island snipe C. a. meinertzhagenae Rothschild, 1927. The status of the extinct Forbes’ snipe C. chathamica (Forbes, 1893)was not examined.

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