Two new parrot species (Psittaciformes) from the early Pliocene of Langebaanweg, South Africa, and their palaeoecological implications




Two new parrot species (Psittaciformes) are described from the early Pliocene Varswater Formation at Langebaanweg, South Africa, an area where no parrots currently are found. A coracoid, humeri, ulnae, carpometacarpi, tibiotarsi and tarsometatarsi of at least four individuals are assigned to a new species of lovebird Agapornis. Additional tarsometatarsi of at least five individuals including a nestling are referred to a new genus and species of Psittacinae, a taxon endemic to Africa comprising the extant genera Poicephalus and Psittacus. Both species form the as yet earliest geological record of parrots in Africa and document the early diversification of the taxa Agapornis and Psittacinae. Evidence for parrots in general, and a putative graminivorous species of lovebird in particular, indicates that woodlands as well as grasslands were present at Langebaanweg during the early Pliocene, which is consistent with current hypotheses on the palaeoenvironment at and around this site.