Descriptions and phylogenetic relationships of a new genus and two new species of Oligo-Miocene cormorants (Aves: Phalacrocoracidae) from Australia




Tertiary cormorant fossils (Aves: Phalacrocoracidae) from Late Oligocene deposits in Australia are described. They derive from the Late Oligocene – Early Miocene (26–24 Mya) Etadunna and Namba Formations in the Lake Eyre and Lake Frome Basins, South Australia, respectively. A new genus, Nambashag gen. nov., with two new species (Nambashag billerooensis sp. nov., 30 specimens; Nambashag microglaucus sp. nov., 14 specimens), has been established. Phylogenetic analyses based on 113 morphological and two integumentary characters indicated that Nambashag is the sister taxon to the Early Miocene Nectornis miocaenus of Europe and all extant phalacrocoracids. As Nambashag, Nectornis, and extant phalacrocoracids constitute a strongly supported clade sister to Anhinga species, the fossil taxa have been referred to Phalacrocoracidae. Sulids and Fregata were successive sister taxa to the Phalacrocoracoidea, i.e. phalacrocoracids + Anhinga. As phalacrocoracids lived in both Europe and Australia during the Late Oligocene and no older phalacrocoracid taxa are known, the biogeographical origin of cormorants remains unanswered. The phylogenetic relationships of extant taxa were not wholly resolved, but contrary to previous morphological analyses, considerable concordance was found with relationships recovered by recent molecular analyses. Microcarbo is sister to all other extant phalacrocoracids, and all Leucocarbo species form a well-supported clade.

© 2011 The Linnean Society of London, Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2011, 163, 277–314.