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Controversies and anomalies

Parrot mandible

The Cretaceous Parrot is still a hotly debated subject within the world of palaeontology. A fossil only 1.5cm long was found in the USA in the late 1990s that it looks very similar to the lower mandible of modern Loriidae.  This would leave a ghost range of 15 million years until the next fossil parrot appears. Because of this time gap some have argued that the beak belongs to  caenagnathid Theropod of the time.

Vasa parrots (Coracopsis)

Female and male Vasa parrotFrom the picture below it's understandable why Vasa parrots are considered very different from other extant parrots. The bald, yellow headed Vasa on the left is in fact the female, who has shed her feathers during the mating season. However, the male (right in picture), has an even more unique characteristic, unlike the majority of all other species of birds this parrot exhibits external genitalia during the mating season.  A hemipenis is created by the male by inverting the cloacae, why this technique is necessary is has wide speculation has the only other birds to possess similar morphology are normally aquatic birds such as geese and ducks. There is some speculation that these parrots represent a separate group or sub group outside Psittacidae due to numerous  differences in characteristics, but yet again little research has be  undertaken to explore this.

Image from


Scaly-breasted LorikeetSome palaeontologist agree with the view that Lorrikets represent their own family and should be excluded from the famil Psittacidae. With their unuseual slender bill  and there biogeographical range there is a good case for them to be placed within their own family Loriinae.

The Kea, Kaka and Kakapo!

The geographical range of these birds and there highly diverse characters make these rare and unusual birds and some ornithologist believe these should be categorised at least within their own sub-family Strigopinae instead of being grouped in the massive Psittacidae family. The Kakapo in the only extant species of flightless parrot, the other quite recently extinct species being the broad- bill parrot (Lophopsittacus mauritianus)

Author: Terri Brittin
Last updated 17/11/2006
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Website produced by students on the MSc Palaeobiology programme in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol for the academic year 2006 -7