Temporal range: Late Quaternary
The remains of the small ibises in the genus have only been found on the islands of Maui, Lanai, and Molokai, which formed part of the prehistoric island of Maui Nui until about 200,000 years ago when rising sea levels fragmented it. Olson and James speculate that the genus was endemic to Maui Nui, that the ibises were birds of the forest floor, that because of their flightlessness they were susceptible to becoming trapped in lava tubes, and that they may have exerted heavy predation pressure on Maui Nui’s land snails.
Analysis of the feathers from the Lanai specimen show an affinity to New World ibises of the genus Eudocimus. The analyses also concluded that Apteribis may have had a brown-and-beige coloration similar to that of a juvenile Eudocimus ibis. This indicates that Apteribis may have evolved both their flightlessness and their coloration through a form of paedomorphosis.
Two species have been described:
- †A. glenos Olson & Wetmore, 1976 Molokai flightless ibis
- †A. brevis Olson & James, 1991 Maui flightless ibis
Fossil material collected on Maui indicates that a third species apparently occurred there; it was generally larger in size and occurred at lower elevations than A. brevis, and has been referred to as the “Maui lowland apteribis”. Another, extremely well-preserved specimen has also been recovered from Lanai, though it has not yet been described to the species level.
- Olson & James (1991).
- Dove, Carla J.; Olson, Storrs L. (September 2011). "Fossil Feathers from the Hawaiian Flightless Ibis (Apteribis sp.): Plumage Coloration and Systematics of a Prehistorically Extinct Bird". Journal of Paleontology. 85 (5): 892–897. doi:10.1666/10-133.1. ISSN 0022-3360.
- Olson, Storrs; James, Helen (1991). "Descriptions of Thirty-Two New Species of Birds from the Hawaiian Islands Part I. Non-Passeriformes". Ornithological Monographs. 7. doi:10.2307/40166794.
- Godino, F.M.J. (2011). "Maui Upland Apteribis". The Extinction Website. Retrieved 2011-01-07.
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