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Kaua'i mole duck
Temporal range: Holocene
4050 BCE (Holocene)
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Anseriformes
Family: Anatidae
Genus: Talpanas
Olson & James, 2009
T. lippa
Binomial name
Talpanas lippa
Olson & James, 2009

Talpanas lippa, the Kauaʻi mole duck,[1] is an extinct species of duck.[2] It was first described by Andrew N. Iwaniuk, Storrs L. Olson, and Helen F. James in the journal Zootaxa in November 2009. It is the only known member of the genus Talpanas. It was endemic to the Hawaiian island of Kauai where the fossil remains were unearthed in the Makauwahi Cave, Maha‘ulepu.[3] The archaeological association of the bones is about 6000 years BP (around 4050 BCE).[3]


The genus name Talpanas is taken from the Latin word talpa, meaning mole and referring to the small size of the eyes, and the Greek word anas, or duck. The species name lippa is from the Latin lippus, meaning "nearly blind".[2]


The tarsometatarsi (lower leg bones) of Talpanas lippa were short and stout, and the braincase shallow and wide relative to its length. It had very small orbits (eye sockets) and also very small optic foramina (holes in the skull through which the optic nerves pass as they travel from the eyes to the brain). Together, these physical characteristics show that the eyes and optic nerve of this duck were quite reduced in size, and it can be assumed that this species was probably both blind and flightless.[2] However, the maxillo-mandibular foramina (holes through which the trigeminal nerve passes) are extremely large, indicating larger nerves were travelling through it. The authors hypothesize that this blind, or nearly blind, duck would have used tactile and olfactory stimuli (the senses of touch and smell) from its beak to explore its surroundings in the absence of good vision.[2]

The holotype, a partial skull, is stored at the Smithsonian Institution with specimen number USNM 535683.


Talpanas lippa was probably nocturnal and terrestrial, similar to kiwi in New Zealand which prey on small invertebrates in forest soil litter. Its bill may have resembled that of a platypus.


  1. ^ Julian Pender Hume, Michael Walters: Extinct Birds. A & C Black, London 2012. ISBN 140815725X., p 57
  2. ^ a b c d Iwaniuk, A. L.; Olson, S. L.; James, H. F. (November 24, 2009). "Extraordinary cranial specialization in a new genus of extinct duck (Aves: Anseriformes) from Kauai, Hawaiian Islands" (PDF). Zootaxa. 2296. Auckland, New Zealand: Magnolia Press: 47–67. doi:10.11646/zootaxa.2296.1.3. S2CID 4176091.
  3. ^ a b Burney; et al. (2001). "Fossil evidence for a diverse biota from Kaua'i and its transformation since human arrival". Ecological Monographs. 71 (4). Washington, DC: Ecological Society of America: 615–641. doi:10.1890/0012-9615(2001)071[0615:fefadb];2. ISSN 0012-9615.

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