A new species of bird has been discovered in northeastern India and adjacent parts of China by a team of scientists from Sweden, China, the U.S., India and Russia.
The bird, described in the current issue of the journal Avian Research, has been named Himalayan forest thrush Zoothera salimalii. The scientific name honors the great Indian ornithologist Sálim Ali, in recognition of his contributions to the development of Indian ornithology and nature conservation.
The discovery process for the Himalayan forest thrush began in 2009 when it was realized that what was considered a single species, the plain-backed thrush Zoothera mollissima, was in fact two different species in northeastern India, said Pamela Rasmussen, of Michigan State University's Department of Integrative Biology and the MSU Museum, and coordinator of MSU's global bird sounds website AVoCet.
Rasmussen was part of the team, which was led by Per Alström of Uppsala University (Sweden).
What first caught scientists' attention was the plain-backed thrush in the coniferous and mixed forest had a rather musical song, whereas individuals found in the same area - on bare rocky ground above the treeline - had a much harsher, scratchier, unmusical song.
"It was an exciting moment when the penny dropped, and we realized that the two different song types from plain-backed thrushes that we first heard in northeast India in 2009, and which were associated with different habitats at different elevations, were given by two different species," Alström said.
Along with keen field observations, the scientists had to do a lot of sleuthing with museum specimens. Investigations involving collections in several countries revealed consistent differences in plumage and structure between birds that could be assigned to either of these two species. It was confirmed that the species breeding in the forests of the eastern Himalayas had no name.
"At first we had no idea how or whether they differed morphologically. We were stunned to find that specimens in museums for over 150 years from the same parts of the Himalayas could readily be divided into two groups based on measurements and plumage," Rasmussen said.
Further analyses of plumage, structure, song, DNA and ecology from throughout the range of the plain-backed thrush revealed that a third species was present in central China. This was already known but was treated as a subspecies of plain-backed thrush. The scientists called it Sichuan forest thrush.
The song of the Sichuan forest thrush was found to be even more musical than the song of the Himalayan forest thrush.
DNA analyses suggested that these three species have been genetically separated for several million years. Genetic data also yielded an additional exciting find: Three museum specimens indicated the presence of yet another unnamed species in China, the Yunnan thrush. Future studies are required to confirm this.
New bird species are rarely discovered nowadays. In the last 15 years, on average approximately five new species have been discovered annually, mainly in South America. The Himalayan forest thrush is only the fourth new bird species described from India since 1949.
Rasmussen is tied for the third-highest number of birds discovered in the world since 1950 and is ranked first for birds discovered in Asia, and Alström is second for Asia in the same time period.
Additional scientists who contributed to the study include Chao Zhao (China), Jingzi Xu (Sweden), Shashank Dalvi (India), Tianlong Cai (China), Yuyan Guan (China), Ruiying Zhang (China), Mikhail Kalyakin (Russia), Fumin Lei (China) and Urban Olsson (Sweden).
Michigan State University has been working to advance the common good in uncommon ways for more than 150 years. One of the top research universities in the world, MSU focuses its vast resources on creating solutions to some of the world's most pressing challenges, while providing life-changing opportunities to a diverse and inclusive academic community through more than 200 programs of study in 17 degree-granting colleges.
Layne Cameron | EurekAlert!
How molecules teeter in a laser field
18.01.2019 | Forschungsverbund Berlin
Discovery of enhanced bone growth could lead to new treatments for osteoporosis
18.01.2019 | University of California - Los Angeles
The scientific and political community alike stress the importance of German Antarctic research
Joint Press Release from the BMBF and AWI
The Antarctic is a frigid continent south of the Antarctic Circle, where researchers are the only inhabitants. Despite the hostile conditions, here the Alfred...
World first experiments on sensor that may revolutionise everything from medical devices to unmanned vehicles
The new sensor - capable of detecting vibrations of living cells - may revolutionise everything from medical devices to unmanned vehicles.
Dead and alive at the same time? Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics have implemented Erwin Schrödinger’s paradoxical gedanken experiment employing an entangled atom-light state.
In 1935 Erwin Schrödinger formulated a thought experiment designed to capture the paradoxical nature of quantum physics. The crucial element of this gedanken...
Cellulose obtained from wood has amazing material properties. Empa researchers are now equipping the biodegradable material with additional functionalities to produce implants for cartilage diseases using 3D printing.
It all starts with an ear. Empa researcher Michael Hausmann removes the object shaped like a human ear from the 3D printer and explains:
The phenomenon of so-called superlubricity is known, but so far the explanation at the atomic level has been missing: for example, how does extremely low friction occur in bearings? Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institutes IWM and IWS jointly deciphered a universal mechanism of superlubricity for certain diamond-like carbon layers in combination with organic lubricants. Based on this knowledge, it is now possible to formulate design rules for supra lubricating layer-lubricant combinations. The results are presented in an article in Nature Communications, volume 10.
One of the most important prerequisites for sustainable and environmentally friendly mobility is minimizing friction. Research and industry have been dedicated...
16.01.2019 | Event News
14.01.2019 | Event News
12.12.2018 | Event News
18.01.2019 | Materials Sciences
18.01.2019 | Life Sciences
18.01.2019 | Health and Medicine