Fossils of New Vulture Species Present in Cuba | Paleontology |

A brand new species of small vulture that lived through the Quaternary interval within the Better Antilles has been recognized from fossils present in western Cuba.

Hypothetical reconstruction of the Emslie’s vulture (Cathartes emsliei). Picture credit score: William Suárez.

“Two species of New World vultures (household Cathartidae) type a part of the trendy avifauna of Cuba: the widespread turkey vulture (Cathartes aura) and the black vulture (Coragyps atratus), which may be very uncommon,” Cuban ornithologist William Suarez and Dr. Storrs Olson from the Smithsonian Establishment’s Nationwide Museum of Pure Historical past wrote of their paper.

“Vultures have been higher represented in Cuba’s fossil file through the Late Pleistocene and a part of the Holocene and included the Cuban condor (Gymnogyps varonai).”

The newly-discovered species belongs to Cathartes, a genus of medium-sized to giant carrion-feeding birds within the Cathartidae household.

Named the Emslie’s vulture (Cathartes emsliei), it lived through the Late Pleistocene to Holocene epoch, till as just lately as 5,000 years in the past.

“The species is known as for our esteemed colleague and pal, Dr. Steven D. Emsli from the College of North Carolina Wilmington, in recognition of his contribution to the information of New World vultures, together with these from Cuba,” the researchers defined.

Right scapulas (A-B, ventral view) and left coracoids (C-D, dorsal view) of the lesser yellow-headed vulture (A, C) and the Emslie’s vulture (B, D). Scale bar - 1 cm. Image credit: William Suárez.

Proper scapulas (A-B, ventral view) and left coracoids (C-D, dorsal view) of the lesser yellow-headed vulture (A, C) and the Emslie’s vulture (B, D). Scale bar – 1 cm. Picture credit score: William Suárez.

The fossilized bones of the Emslie’s vulture have been recovered from Quaternary asphalt deposits on the website of Las Breas de San Felipe and cave deposits in Cueva de Sandoval and Cueva del Indio in western Cuba.

Some specimens of the traditional hen are the smallest identified within the genus Cathartes.

“Cuban scavengers have been extremely specialised, evolving within the full absence of carnivorous mammals, and turning into extinct through the Holocene,” the scientists wrote.

“The Emslie’s vulture seems to be derived from a Central American ancestor — most likely one associated to the smaller dwelling species, the lesser yellow-headed vulture (Cathartes burrovianus) — quite than from North America, in contrast to the 2 different extinct Cuban taxa within the genera Coragyps and Gymnogyps.”

“Skulls with huge and huge payments, in comparison with continental congeners, are widespread variations in Cuban carrion-eaters.”

The invention of the Emslie’s vulture is reported in a paper within the Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Membership.


William Suárez & Storrs L. Olson. 2020. A brand new fossil vulture (Cathartidae: Cathartes) from Quaternary asphalt and cave deposits in Cuba. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Membership 140 (3): 335-343; doi: 10.25226/bboc.v140i3.2020.a6

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