Sunday, August 28, 2011

New American bird species (and new monkey, too)

Those who've read my stuff know that new monkeys in the Amazon are not that rare. Still, every new primate species is a big deal scientifically. The new titi monkey found in the Brazilian state of Masso Grosso has, as biologist Julio Dalponte said, "features on its head and tail that have never been observed before in other titi monkey species found in the same area." Meg Symonton of the WWF added, "This incredibly exciting discovery shows just how much we still have to learn from the Amazon."

Now the REALLY big news: there hasn't been a new American bird species since the po'uli was discovered in Hawaii in 1974. Now from the same islands comes Bryan's Shearwater, a little black and white seabird with blue legs and a a black or blue-gray bill. It was first collected in 1963 but misidentified as a known species. We don;t know how many of these birds exist or just where they breed. Conservationists are assiduously trying to find out such details. As Rob Fleischer of the Smithsonian put it, "It's very unusual to discover a new species of bird these days and especially gratifying when DNA can confirm our original hypothesis that the animal is unique. This bird is unique, both genetically and in appearance, and represents a novel, albeit very rare, species." Welcome, Puffinus bryani!

Discovery never ends, whether it's in a remote rain forest or (relatively) right on our doorstep...

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