A bird for my future evolution project.
Perhaps the most interesting animals on Polycenic Antarctica are the descendants of seabirds. It is not hard to see why they abandoned the ocean for the inland tussock plains – they offer shelter, food, and safe places to make nests under tussocks, safe from the prying eyes of predators.
Gulls were amongst the first birds to make the change – being highly adaptable, it didn't take long for some species to severe their ties with the ocean. This is an event that can be seen throughout the world as gulls diversify, but nowhere has it yet resulted in a form such as that seen on Antarctica. These creatures, known as filtermews, took advantage of the swarms of flying insects, and become aerial filter feeders. Early filtermews would fly through a swarm, mouth wide open, rictal bristles helping to trap the insects, like a net. However, more advanced forms also developed baleen-like papillae lining their tongue and the roof of their mouth, aided by sticky saliva – this helps to trap the flies and other insects inside the mouth while it is still moving, until it closes its mouth and uses its tongue to rasp off the trapped prey. This method of foraging is efficient, especially during the summer when there are huge amounts of insects. However, during the winter months, when flying insect activity is low, the filtermew birds are forced to broaden their diet and spend more time actively pecking around in search of food. They do particularly well at the end of the Polycene and on into future times, due to the arrival of mosquitos, good fodder for these birds.