Tag Archives: species

New Peruvian bird species discovered by its song

(Florida Museum of Natural History, ScienceDaily 23 oct 2017;Photo Andy Kratter)

A new species of bird from the heart of Peru remained undetected for years until researchers identified it by its unique song.

In 1996, a group of Louisiana State University and Florida Museum of Natural History researchers traveled to the Cordillera Azul, an isolated mountain ridge in Peru, where they discovered a previously unknown manakin species.

With its bright yellow front feathers, the bird was different from the local subspecies of striped manakin, but nearly identical to the subspecies Machaeropterus regulus aureopectus found in the distant Venezuelan tepuis. But it has a completely different voice.

The newly discovered manakin’s song lacks undertones and has a one-noted rising vocalization, rather than two-noted falling vocalization with undertones or a falling monosyllabic vocalization with undertones.

It was given the name Machaeropterus eckelberryi, commemorating the 20th century bird illustrator Don Eckelberry.

Andy Kratter, a museum ornithology collection manager, said the differences went unnoticed for years because the research team didn’t have vocalizations for all of the bird species.

“We kind of sat on it for a long time because we didn’t have vocalizations of the birds in Venezuela, and this bird is different from the local birds but close enough to the Venezuelan birds that it might have been considered the same species,” he said. “In manakins, it’s often subtle clues that might be different among species.”

The discovery of the new species and details of the expedition were recently published in Zootaxa.

Kratter said finding the new species and the isolated mountain ridge were important for the scientific community, in part because the discovery spurred Peru to preserve the area.

“The Peruvian government established a national park in the area in the early 2000s, mainly as a result of finding this novel diversity in this area, which our expedition did,” he said. “Finding these guys opened up a little more inventory and exploration, which led to the formation of this gigantic national park.”

Dan Lane, leader of the expedition and a research associate at LSU, was the first to record the new species, and he said it is one more bird for the ornithological community to include in their studies.

“Even if we weren’t discovering new species, just exploring regions of the world that are sse this knowledge to preserve them is a worthwhile activity,” he said. “Peru still has many till poorly known and getting a better picture of where species are distributed, what habitats they use and how we may utreasures hidden in unexplored nooks and crannies, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the opportunity to uncover them. To this day, it may be some of the most virgin terrain I’ve ever visited.”

A grant from the National Geographic Society’s Fund for Research and Exploration funded the research in 1996.

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Dance Moves Support Evidence for New Bird-of-Paradise Species

Western New Guinea form of the Superb Bird-of-Paradise

(Cornell LoO 29 June 2017; Photo Tim Laman)

Ithaca, NY—The Superb Bird-of-Paradise—the shape-shifting black bird of central New Guinea that woos its mate with an iridescent blue “smiley-face” dance—has an equally superb cousin in the isolated mountains of Indonesia’s Bird’s Head Peninsula in the island’s far west. Scientist Ed Scholes and photographer Tim Laman, with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Birds-of-Paradise Project, have now visually documented the distinct differences between the western population in the Arfak Mountains and the more common form found elsewhere on the island. Both believe the western form should be considered a new species.

“The courtship dance is different. The vocalizations are different. Even the shape of the displaying male is different,” says Scholes. “For centuries, people thought the Superb Bird-of-Paradise in the mountains of the Bird’s Head region was a little different from the other populations throughout the rest of New Guinea, but no one had ever documented its display in the 200 plus years this bird has been known to occur there.”

“Even after many trips to the region, we’d never seen the Arfak birds do their courtship display,” says Birds-of-Paradise Project co-leader Tim Laman. “When we finally located a display site and saw a male open his cape for the first time, what we saw was a complete surprise!”

When expanded for courtship display, the western male’s raised cape creates a completely different appearance—crescent-shaped with pointed tips rather than the oval shape of the widespread form of the species. The way the western male dances for the female is also is distinctive, being smooth instead of bouncy.

           
The raised cape of the western male (left) is crescent shaped and unlike the oval shape of the widespread Superb Bird-of-Paradise (right) found throughout most of New Guinea. Left image by Tim Laman/Macaulay Library. Image on right is from video by Ed Scholes/Macaulay Library.

Scholes and Laman have been studying and filming birds-of-paradise behavior in the Arfak Mountains for the past 13 years. They first uncovered this population’s unique courtship behaviors in June 2016 and returned again this year to gather additional documentation for a forthcoming scientific paper.

A recently published independent genetic study confirms the visual and behavioral evidence collected by Scholes and Laman. A team of researchers from Sweden and Australia used DNA samples from museum specimens to examine the evolutionary relationships among Superb Bird-of-Paradise forms throughout New Guinea. Their research, published online in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, found that the western form is more genetically distinct from the widespread form than previously thought. They, too, say the western population should be recognized as a full species called Lophorina neidda inopinata. 

“The timing of this DNA-based study is perfect,” said Ed Scholes, “because it is great to have our field observations supported by solid genetic evidence. We really appreciate this in-depth study of the evolutionary relationships among the different forms of Superb Bird-of-Paradise.”

The Cornell Lab’s Birds-of-Paradise Project (birdsofparadiseproject.org) is a research and education initiative to document, interpret, and protect the birds-of-paradise, their native environments, and the other biodiversity of the New Guinea region—one of the largest remaining tropical wildernesses on the planet.