The continent of South America is home to an amazing array of feathered fliers, including tiny hummingbirds, giant condors, colorful parrots and toucans, and a variety of tweetybirds.
(Text by Daniel Bensen)

    On Earth, the order Piciformes includes six families: The widespread woodpeckers, piculets, and wrynecks, barbets (native to tropical regions of Africa, Asia, and the New World), honey guides of Africa and southern Asia, toucans of Central and South America, and the tropical American jacamars and puffbirds.  Members of this group are zygodactylous, with two toes on each foot pointing forward, the other two backward. Most species on this group have no down plumage at any age except for the jacamars.  On Spec, clade Piciformes is reduced to only three families (or possibly four---see "Afrogemmidae"). These are Galbulidae, Ramphastidae, Gemmidae, and Hydropicidae.

     Jacamars, family Galbulidae, is a strange and diverse branch of piciforms. Inside this family one can expect to find insect eaters as well as nectarivorous species. 4 genera and several species comprise Galbulidae.  Like kingfishers and motmots, these birds excavate nests in sandy or clay banks.

    The ramphastids are medium-sized to large Neotropical birds that are famous for their enormous and usually brightly coloured beaks and plumage. The 42 ramphastid species include araçaris, toucanets, and muzzle toucans. These birds feed mostly on berries, seeds, and small fruits, though they also prey on arthropods and small vertebrates. Spec's Ramphastidae is much more diverse than it is on Earth, ecompassing a wide range of forms, colours and behaviours.  In actuall species count, however, the family is poorly represented, perhaps because Spec's Amazon Basin remains poorly explored. Most ramphasitids are long tailed and do have musical voices, thought not as melodious as the fairy-barbets.

     The the swoops (Agilifugiiformes) and hummingbirds (Trochiliformes) evolved in South America, isolated from the mistrider invasion, and have since spread across the Americas and even into Eurasia.

    No fossils of these birds have been found, but DNA hybridization studies show that they are somewhat related to the hummingbirds, and likely evolved in South America during the Pliocene, shortly before the Great Faunal Interchange.  These birds rapidly spread throughout the Americas, evolving in parallel with the passerine New World flycatchers of Home-Earth.  Swoops are somwhat more robust than the mistriders that are their principal competition, and generally hunt during the day, leaving the dusk and dawn to their twitavian counterparts.

    A very small subclade of the agiliforms, Velocipteryxidae (the crested swoops) includes only a single genus, Velocipteryx, and is endemic to the rainforests of South America.  Although several aspects of their anatomy (wide mouths, small feet, short humeri, sickle-shaped wings, etc.) are distinctly agiliform, other velocipteryxid features are distinctively their own.

    Velocipteryxid feet, for instance, are particularly bizarre.  Unlike the majority of other birds (and all other apodimorphs), crested swoops do not possess anisodactyl feet---with three toes projecting forward and the hallux projecting backward to form a grasping appendage---, but pamprodactyl feet.  In a pamprodactylous foot, all four toes project forward under normal conditions, but the outer two toes can be swiveled around to oppose the inner two toes when the bird is perching.  This pedal arrangement creates a strong grip (indeed, velocipteryxids are completely at home clambering around trees and sheer rock cliffs) and is remarkably similar to the pedal arrangement of the apodids, or true swifts, of Spec's past and Earth's present.  Genetic studies are pending, but preliminary analysis indicates that the crested swoops, while related to true swifts as fellow apodimorphs, are no more closely related to their extinct cousins than are other agilifugiforms.  Thus, the crested swoops' pamprodactylous feet represent a truly bizarre form of cross-universal convergence, rather than a link to the apodids.

(Text by Daniel Bensen)
    The monotypic family of charadriiform birds contains the rectal probe, a highly specialised hunter of rectal endoparasites and other animals found in the colon of large semiaquatic dinosaurs.
(Text by Brian Choo)
  • Rectal Probe
  •  Back to Spec
    Hosted by