Acta Palaeontologica Polonica

Pleistocene non-passeriform landbirds from Shiriya, northeast Japan

Junya Watanabe, Hiroshige Matsuoka, and Yoshikazu Hasegawa

Acta Palaeontologica Polonica in press
available online 08 Aug 2018 doi:

Located on the eastern margin of Eurasia, the Japanese Archipelago hosts a unique modern fauna of terrestrial vertebrates including landbirds which show a high proportion of endemic species/subspecies. Despite its potential importance in taxonomy and biogeography, the Pleistocene landbird fossil record has been scarce on Japanese islands, providing little information on the history of the unique fauna in the region. In this study, fossil remains of non-passeriform landbirds from the middle–late Pleistocene (Marine Isotope Stages [MIS] 9 and 5e) of Shiriya, northernmost Honshu Island, Japan, are revised with extensive osteological comparisons. As a result, the presence of at least six non-passeriform landbird species, represented by 71 specimens, was confirmed: Syrmaticus sp., Coturnicini gen. et sp. indet., Columbidae gen. et sp. indet., Apus sp., Haliaeetus sp., and Accipitridae gen. et sp. indet. The Shiriya paleoavifauna is the first substantial Pleistocene landbird fauna reported from the central Japanese islands so far, and suggests that the overall landbird fauna in northern Honshu in the last interglacial period (MIS 5e) was not drastically different from the present one, in contrast to the presence of several extinct land mammals and seabirds in the local fauna. The occurrence of Syrmaticus despite the supposedly colder climate in that time than today suggests that the distribution of modern S. soemmerringii might not be totally defined by climatic factors, but probably affected by a biogeographic barrier at the strait between Honshu and Hokkaido islands.

Key words: Aves, Phasianidae, Columbidae, Apodidae, Accipitridae, Syrmaticus, Apus, Haliaeetus, biogeography, continental island, Blakiston’s line, Pleistocene, Japan.

Junya Watanabe [, ORCID] and Hiroshige Matsuoka [], Department of Geology and Mineralogy, Graduate School of Science, Kyoto University, Sakyoku Kitashirakawa Oiwakecho, Kyoto 606-8502, Japan. Yoshikazu Hasegawa [], Gunma Museum of Natural History, 1674-1 Kamikuroiwa, Tomioka, Gunma 370-2345, Japan.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (for details please see, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.