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New bird discovered on unexplored Columbian mountain

09.10.2006
Discovery made possible through BP Conservation Program project

A new bird to science was recently discovered on an unexplored mountain range in northern Colombia by a team supported by the BP Conservation Programme. It was named "Yariguies Brush-Finch," with the scientific name Atlapetes latinuchus yariguierum.

The new brush-finch was described by an Anglo-Colombian team of biologists including Thomas Donegan (Fundación ProAves) and Blanca Huertas (Natural History Museum and University College London), following their leadership of the first biological exploration of the Yariguíes mountains. The description was published in the June issue of the scientific journal Bulletin of the British Ornithologists Club (Vol. 126: June 2006).

The new bird is named for the Yariguies indigenous people who formerly inhabited the mountain range where the bird was found. A large and colorful finch with black, yellow and red plumage, the new species differs from its closest relatives in having a black back and no white markings on its wings. It also is found in other nearby mountains in Colombia's eastern Andean range. Genetic, morphological and vocal studies have confirmed its identity as a new taxon.

"Before we began this study, no one knew what species lived in the Yariguíes Mountains and whether they needed protecting," said Thomas Donegan. "Now, we are beginning to describe new taxa and a national park was established in the region. It is surprising that this new brush-finch and the forests of the Yariguíes Mountains could remain unstudied, undescribed and unprotected for so long."

This description is noteworthy in that one of the two birds caught by the team and used in the description as a type specimen was released unharmed, a DNA sample and photographs having been taken. This is the first time that a live specimen has been used for the description of a new bird following the approval by the International Commission of Zoological Nomenclature of such techniques last year.

With biological justification resulting from this research and following other initiatives, Serranía de los Yariguíes was declared a national park last year by the Colombian government and a large forest nature reserve was recently established in the region by Fundación ProAves, Colombia's bird conservation NGO.

"The description of a new bird is a rare event in modern times," said Blanca Huertas. "However, this is just the first of several new species that we will be describing from the Yariguíes Mountains. In my own specialist group, butterflies, we have found several new taxa that will be described soon."

The new bird discovered was funded due to an on-going commitment to the environment from BP, whom supports the BP Conservation Programme Awards. This year, the programme awarded 27 winning teams from 21 different countries with support totalling $475,000.

The awards support the vital work of a new rising generation of conservation professionals and drive practical research projects addressing a wide range of global environmental issues.

This year, 19 teams were awarded "Future Conservationist Awards" and eight awards were granted to teams to continue and further their projects that previously were awarded funding from the BP Conservation Programme. Three teams received "Conservation Leadership Awards" and five teams received "Conservation Follow-up Awards."

Julian Teixeira | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://conservation.bp.com

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