New bird species have been discovered on islands in Indonesia.
Scientists have discovered several new species of tropical sunbirds on remote islands in Indonesia. Zoologists from Trinity College Dublin, working with an Indonesian research team, identified, among others, the previously unknown “Wakatobi sunbird” (Cinnyris infrenatus) with its bright blue and yellow breast, which lives on the Wakatobi archipelago east of Sulawesi. That’s according to a new study published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.
“The Wakatobi Islands are recognized as an Important Bird Area, but despite their importance, they received little ornithological attention until recently, the study says. Lead author Fionn Ó Marcaigh said: “Small, isolated islands like these have their own evolutionary processes and these often produce unique species, as in the famous case of the Galápagos Islands.”
The researchers also examined specimens that had previously been assigned to the green-backed sunbirds (Cinnyris jugularis) and silken sunbirds (Leptocoma sericea). They found out that individual individuals belong to previously unknown species. Thus, green-backed sunbirds, for example, represent a superspecies that must be divided into at least four species, according to the study. “These exciting findings have important implications for our understanding of evolution in this biodiverse region,” it said.
Sunbirds – or sunbirds in English – live in the tropics from Africa to Australia. They resemble the American hummingbirds. Male sunbirds often have light-colored plumage with iridescent feathers that gleam metallically in sunlight. The plumage of these animals has been studied for hundreds of years to name species, the authors said. About 140 species are currently recognized.
The study has now taken into account, among other things, the DNA, song recordings as well as body dimensions and wing lengths – and has shown that the family of sunbirds is far more diverse than previously assumed. “It is amazing that in this region (…) there are still species waiting to be discovered,” said Ó Marcaigh. “I’m thrilled that we’ve expanded the list of known species from this wonderful part of the world.”