Record of the
have a rich (relatively anyway, generally the birds
fossil record is pretty poor) and old fossil record. The
modern charadriiforme order is estimated to be about 80 million years
old from RAG-1 DNA sequencing, but many of the most ancient putative
Charadriiforme fossils that date from the late
Cretaceous are highly incomplete and often single elements of
questionable affinity. As a result, shorebird-like fossils of the
Cretaceous are frequently placed within the Graculavidae or
'transitional shorebirds', a cladistically untested order with a large
amount of surrounding controversy.Various authors contest the place of
transitional shorebirds in bird phylogeny, whether or not
are basal to Charadriiformes and/or all modern birds (Neornithes) is
vast majority of fossil charadriiformes are known from fragmentary
remains, and a lot of what we know about them is inferred from their
closest living relatives. As there is a generally good correlation in
the Charadriiformes between form and function, and most extinct forms
found are either very close to or within existing genera, such
fairly safe to make.
I shall concentrate on the 'true' Charadriiformes
i.e. those we would recognise as members of the extant order, in order
to avoid confusion. The purpose of the following list is a quick
assessment of the current literature on fossil Charadriiformes and aims
to give a good idea of the
quality of their fossil record, and current thinking were certain
fossils should be classified.
Denotes extinct taxa (Palaeotaxa).
geologic timescale: Next to each family entry is the
geological time range fossils of that family have been found in.
Bird Anatomy: I have given brief descriptions of
where the various bones mentioned on this page are from, but
this should help to visualise them a little better.
- Morsoravis sedile, an as yet unpublished
exceptionally preserved fossil (articulated partial skeleton, including
a skull) from Palaeocene-Lower Eocene deposits in Denmark has been
credited with belonging to a basal clade of Charadriiformes.
- Cimolopteryx; Ceramornis. Two genera of
origin, all specimens of both found at one locality in Wyoming and
mostly consisting of incomplete single bones. Uncertain affinity with
This group contains a number of large families which are
correspondingly well represented in the fossil record.:
Larini (Gulls): Lower Oligocene-Pleistocene
Sternini (Terns): Miocene-Pleistocene
A large number of Larus species have been recovered
from many localities, importantly the London Clay deposits. A large
number of extant species as well as palaeospecies of this genus have
been found, ranging in age from the Mid/Lower Oligocene right up to the
- »Gaviota niobrara Known from
late Miocene of Nebraska, type specimen is the distal end of a femur
(leg). Subsequent species have been reclassified as Procellariiformes.
- Rissa; Xema These extant genera
(Kittiwakes and Sabines Gull) have fossil representatives of
- Sterna (Terns) A number of extant
species of Sterna are known from
the Pleistocene as well as a palaeospecies, S.milne-edwardsii
from the Miocene
Georgia, known from a skeletal impression.
- »Pseudosterna Two species
bone fragments found in Pleistocene deposits of
South America. Probably invalid
- Chlidonias; Hydroprogne; Thallasseus;
Anous Extant genera (Marsh, Caspian, Royal/Sandwich etc
terns and Noddies) known from Pleistocene fossils.
Stercorarinae (Skuas): Mid Miocene-Pleistocene
- Stercorarius (Skuas)Two
known, »S.shufeldti from the
lake formation of Oregon and one other mid-miocene species. Also a
number of extant species are know from the Pleistocene record.
Alcinae (Auks): Eocene-Pleistocene
- »Nautilornis Two
known from a
right humerus (leg) and a sternum (breast) from the Eocene of Utah
- »Hydrotherikornis oregonus
oldest known Alcid, upper Eocene in age. Known from a left tibio-tarsus
- »Miocepphus mcclungi Right
the middle Miocene of Maryland
- Cerorhinca (Auklets)One mid Miocene
palaeospecies from California and extant species found in Pleistocene
- Uria (Guillemots/Murres)Three
from Italy and
the USA, mid-Miocene to Pleistocene in age, also extant species known
from Pleistocene sites.
- » Autralca grandis Lower
Pliocene of Florida, known from coracoid (chest).
known from a humerus of the mid Pliocene of California. Extant species
at Pleistocene sites.
known from mid Pliocene of California, the extant species, P.aleuticus
is known from Pleistocene sites.
- »Premancalla lagunensis Known
collection of fragments from California, Upper Miocene in age. Thought
to be an ancestor of:
- »Mancalla A lower-mid
Pliocene species from California, known from single or fractional bones.
- »Alcodes Known from the upper
Miocene of California. Along with the previous two genera, Alcodes
makes up the Lucas or mancalline Auks. These are thought to
intermediate between auks and penguins in adaptation for wing propelled
diving, as they are believed to be flightless.
- Plautus; Pinguinnus (now classified as Alca);
Synthliboramphus; Cyclorrhyncus; Aethia; Cerorhinca; Fratercula;
Alca; Cepphus; Lunda (Various other auks including the
puffins, guillemots, murrelets, auklets and the recently extinct Great
Auk) Have been found in various Pleistocene and younger localities.
- »Turnipax dissipata A
described bird from the Oligocene of France, family Turnipacidae was
created to accommodate it. Known from a number of dissociated bones
- »Cerestenia pulchrapenna
Described at the same time as Turnipax and also
from the Oligocene of France, this bird is only placed tentatively
within this new family. Known from a nearly complete, articulated
Glareolidae (Pratincoles and Coursers): Miocene
Sandpipers and Allies
- »Paractiornis perpusillus From
the Agate fossil quarries of the lower Miocene of Nebraska. Holotype is
Jacanidae (Jacanas): Miocene
- »Nupharanassa bohemica
described Jacana from the Lower Miocene of the Czech Republic, known
only from a fractured tarsometatarsus (ankle).
Scolopacidae ('typical' Waders): Oligocene-Quaternary
- Limosa (Godwits)Fossils of
extinct species have been found in the USA and France, ranging from the
upper Eocene/lower Oligocene to Pliocene (extinct) up to the
Pleistocene in age.
- Totanus(Tringa - reclassified)
and Tattlers)Many palaeospecies from
Oligocene to Pliocene in age, mainly European. Most known from
individual or small numbers of bones. Extant species found in
- »Paractitis bardi
from partial coracoid, found in lower Oligocene of Canada.
- »Elorius paludicola A
of bones from the lower Miocene of France are the type specimens.
- Numenius (Curlews)Palaeospecies »N.antiquus
known from middle Miocene of France, tarsometatarsus type specimen.
- Bartramia (Upland
from mid Pliocene of Oregon, type specimen is a carpometacarpus
(wrist). Extant species also known from Pleistocene sites.
- »Palnumenius victima
specimen, a tarsometatarsus is from the Pleistocene of Mexico
- Erolia (Turnstones and
number of palaeospecies
from Europe and the USA, Miocene-Pliocene in ages, mostly known from
individual or small collections of bones. Extant species (which may
also be classed as Calidris) found at Pleistocene
- Ereunetes (Sandpipers)Extinct
rayi known from coracoid from
lower Pliocene of Florida, extant species from Pleistocene.
- Calidris (Calidrids - small
pacis known from a fractional humerus from the lower Pliocene
of florida. Extant species (possibly classed as Erolia sp.)
- Micropalana Palaeospecies »M.
hesternus known from upper Pliocene of Arizona. Type specimen
is a fragmented humerus.
- Philomachus (Ruffs)Extant
from Pleistocene sites. Palaeospecies »P.
binagadensis type specimen from lower Plaeistocene of
- Capella Palaeospecies, »C.
anthoyi known only from a Quaternery cave deposit (humerus)
in Puerto Rico. Various extant species at Pleistocene and more recent
Chathamica known from a skull from the Quaternary of New
- Scolapax (Woodcocks)Two
Pliocene are known, one from Menorca, known from a humerus. Extant
species are also known from Pleistocene sites.
- Tringa; Xenus; Actitis; Catoptrophorus;
Heteroscelus; Crocethia; Limnodromus; Limnocryptes; Philohela;
Arenaria; Phalaropus; Lobipes.
(Various other waders)are all known in the fossil record from
Plovers and Allies
Charadriinae (Plovers and Lapwings): Oligocene-Pleistocene
Heamatopodinae (Oystercatchers): Pliocene-Pleistocene
- »Dolicopterus viator From the
lower Oligocene of France, type specimen is a selection of bones of the
chest back and arms.
- »Viator picis Known from
Pleistocene tar seeps in Peru.
- Vanellus/Belanopterus (Lapwings)Two
»edmundi and »downsi,
were originally placed in genus Belanopterus, but
some confusion surrounds them now. The former is also from the Peruvian
tar seeps, the latter from the famous La Brea tar pits in California. »V.selysii
is a palaeospecies known from the Oligocene of Belgium.
- »Limicolavis pluvianella Type
specimen is a tibiotarsus thought to be from the lower Miocene of
Oregon, but subsequent specimens from California have been dated as
- Charadrius (Plovers) »C.sheppardianus
is only known palaeospecies, from the mid Oligocene of Colorado. A
number of extant species are known from Pleistocene sites though.
- »Dorypaltus prophatus Plover
like bird known from two Pleistocene sites in Florida. Has been
synonimised with Belanopterus chilensis
- Squatarola; Pluvialis; Eudromias; Lobibyx
(Mostly other plovers)
Extant representatives of all these genera have also been found at
Pleistocene sites, as well as a possible palaeospecies of Oreopholus
Recurvirostridae (The Avocets): Eocene?
- »Palostralegus salcatus Known
only from part of a tibiotarsus from the lower Pliocene of Florida.
- Heamatopus Various extant species are
known from the Pleistocene fossil record.
Burhinidae (The Thick-knees): Pleistocene
- »Coltonia recurvirostra
Identified as Charadriiforme from fragmentary from the lower Eocene of
Utah, is now thought to probably be a synonym of the non-Charadriiforme
- Burhinus A few palaeospecies of this genus are known,
probably Pleistocene in age. Extant species have also been found at