African Black Swift (Apus barbatus). From a great spot at the top of a cliff at Hlokozi, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

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The bird genus Apus comprise some of the Old World (= Europe, Asia and Africa) members of the family Apodidae, commonly known as swifts.

They are among the fastest birds in the world. They resemble swallows, to which they are not related, but have shorter tails and sickle-shaped wings. Swifts spend most of their life aloft, have very short legs and use them mostly to cling to surfaces.


Taxonomic history of Apus

Before the 1950s, there was some controversy over which group of organism should have the genus name Apus. Bosc gave the organisms known today as Triops the genus name Apus and later authors continued to use this term. Keilhack suggested that this was incorrect since there already was an avian genus named Apus Scopoli in 1909. It wasn't until 1958 when the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) ruled against the use of the genus name Apus and instead recognized the term Triops that the controversy finally ended.


Horus Swift (Apus horus) Systematics

Known fossil species are:

  • Apus gaillardi (Middle/Late Miocene of La Grive-St.-Alban, France)
  • Apus wetmorei (Early - Late Pliocene? of SC and SE Europe)
  • Apus baranensis (Late Pliocene of SE Europe)
  • Apus submelba (Middle Pleistocene of Slovakia)

The Miocene "Apus" ignotus is now placed in Procypseloides.


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