Avifauna from the Teouma Lapita Site, Efate Island, Vanuatu, Including a New Genus and Species of Megapode
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The avifauna of the Teouma archaeological site on Efate in Vanuatu is described. It derives from the Lapita levels (3,000 â€“ 2,800 ybp) and immedi-ately overlying middens extending to âˆ¼2,500 ybp. A total of 30 bird species is represented in the 1,714 identiï¬ ed specimens. Twelve species are new records for the island, which, added to previous records, indicates that minimally 39 land birds exclusive of passerines were in the original avifauna. Three-fourths of the 12 newly recorded species appear to have become extinct by the end of Lapita times, 2,800 ybp. The avifauna is dominated by eight species of columbids (47.5% Minimum Number Individuals [MNI ]) including a large extinct tooth-billed pigeon, Didunculus placopedetes from Tonga, and a giant Ducula sp. cf. D. goliath from New Caledonia. Seabirds are rare despite the coastal location of the site. Fowl are important contributors to the Teouma avifauna, with the human-introduced Red Junglefowl Gallus gallus accounting for 15% MNI and present in all sampled layers. There are two species of megapodes (âˆ¼10% of MNI ), with the extant Vanuatu Megapode Megapodius layardi most abundant and represented at all levels in the deposits. A substantially larger extinct megapode, Mwalau walter-linii, n. gen., n. sp., is present only in the Lapita midden area, where it is rela-tively rare. This extinct species was larger than all extant megapodes but smaller than the extinct Progura gallinacea from Australia, with proportions most similar to those of Alectura, and was a volant bird. The remaining signiï¬ cant faunal component is rails, with four species present, of which Porphyrio melanotus was the most abundant. Rare but notable records include an undescribed large rail; a parrot, Eclectus sp. cf. E. infectus; a hornbill, Rhyticeros sp. cf. R. plicatus; and a coucal, Centropus sp. indet., all conservatively considered likely to be conspeciï¬ c with known taxa elsewhere in Melanesia.