Wild Birds

Pile-builder Megapodes

Pile-builder Megapodes (Megapodius molistructor)



The Pile-builder Megapodes (Megapodius molistructor) is an extinct species of megapode. The fossil remains were found by Jean-Christophe Balouet and Storrs L. Olson in caves in New Caledonia and Tonga.



With a weight of 3.5 kg, Megapodius molistructor was heavier than all existing megapodes. On Tonga, it was the largest ground-dwelling bird species. The fossil material consists of a left tarsometatarsus, a complete left scapula, a half right scapula, a proximal end left ulna, a fragment of the right femur, several ungual phalanxes, an anterior end right scapula, a proximal end right ulna, a distal helft left ulna, a distal end left ulna proximal and a half right femur.



When the early settlers of the Lapita culture arrived in Tonga at about 1500 BC they found only marine species like sea turtles and giant forms of terrestrial birds like megapodes, doves, and rails. The hunting of these bird species for food led to their rapid extinction. In New Caledonia the giant megapode might have survived into historic times. William Anderson, a naturalist and surgeon’s mate at the HMS Resolution during James Cook’s second South Sea voyage, described a bird from New Caledonia with bare legs which he named Tetrao australis. Considering that all Tetrao species have feathered legs, Anderson’s bird might well have been a megapode.



  1. Steadman, David William (2006): Extinction and Biogeography of Tropical Pacific Birds. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-77142-3
  2. Balouet, Jean Christophe; Olson, Storrs L.: Fossil Birds from Late Quaternary Deposits in New Caledonia PDF, online
  3. Balouet, J.-C. & Alibert, E. (1990): Extinct Species of the World, Barrons, New York, London, Toronto, Sydney. ISBN 2-7373-0254-4


External links

  • Steadman, David William: The biogeography and extinction of megapodes in Oceania (PDF, full text)
  • Association Endemia – Megapodius molistructor


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Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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