Himalayan Forest Thrush: Scientists Discover New Species of Bird

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A group of scientists led by Dr. Per Alström of Uppsala University has described a new species of bird from the northeastern India and adjacent parts of China.

Dr. Alström and his Chinese and European colleagues named the new species 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,” they explained.

The proposed English name is the Himalayan forest thrush.

The Himalayan forest thrush (Zoothera salimalii). Image credit: Craig Belsford.

“The discovery process for the Himalayan forest thrush began in 2009 when it was realized that what was considered one species, the plain-backed thrush (Zoothera mollissima), was in fact two different species,” said team member Dr. Pamela Rasmussen, of Michigan State University

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, unmusical song.

The Himalayan forest thrush (Zoothera salimalii). Image credit: Per Alstrom.

“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,” Dr. Alström said.

Follow-up investigations involving museum collections revealed differences in plumage and structure between birds that could be assigned to either of these two species.

“At first we had no idea how or whether they differed morphologically,” Dr. Rasmussen said. “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.”

Research describing the Himalayan forest thrush will be published online in the journal Avian Research.

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Per Alström et al. 2016. Integrative taxonomy of the Plain-backed Thrush (Zoothera mollissima) complex (Aves, Turdidae) reveals cryptic species, including a new species. Avian Research 7 (1); doi: 10.1186/s40657-016-0037-2

This article was first published by Sci-News.com on 20 Jan 2016.

 

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