Fragmented forests of the highest ranges of the Western Ghats have revealed a secret that is music to the ears of naturalists who are termed songbird.
Researchers which are exploring this sky islands have designated two new endemic genera and a newer species of song bird.
Research is published in the latest issue of the BMC Evolutionary Biology which was undertaken by V. V. Robin, Sushma Reddy, C. K. Vishnudas, Pooja Gupta, Frank E. Rheindt, Daniel M. Hooper and Uma Ramakrishnan.
Various Genera of Species Discovered:
Team has designated this two of the new genera, the Western Ghats short-wings as Sholicola (closely related to flycatchers) and the laughing thrushes as Montecincla (closely related to babblers).
Newly described Sholicola ashambuensis is being confined to the Agasthyar Malai mountain ranges.
Species in the Montecincla genera are including Montecincla jerdoni, Montecincla cachinnans, Montecincla fairbanki and Montecincla meridionalis which are belonging to Montecincla genus.
Sholicola major and Sholicola albiventris are belonging to Sholicola genus.
Mr. Robin added further, “Though many people had noted some differences in feather patterns across populations in different mountain tops or “sky islands”, they were still considered a single species. It wasn’t until we had genetic data that we realized the traditional story was wrong.”
Taxonomy of the birds has also posed a challenge to the researchers. Before what used to be called as Western Ghats short-wings are actually flycatchers and what used to be called laughing thrushes are actually more closely related to other babblers.
Ms. Reddy added further, “When we reconstructed their genetic relationships, it was clear that these two lineages were very different from the genera in which they were previously placed.”
Another lucky break was including the discovery of old forgotten specimens in the Trivandrum Natural History Museum.
Mr. Vishnudas added further, “They were locked away in a cabinet and forgotten for nearly 100 years. When I found them in 2009, I never thought that it would lead to the discovery of a new species!”
Ms. Ramakrishnan says, “For Western Ghats, already known for its rich and unique biodiversity, we have just increased the number of bird species found nowhere else in the world and each of these now have narrower distribution.”
These songbird’s were living in the most vulnerable part of the ecosystem having fragmented forest patches over the highest peaks of the range.
It is facing increasing pressure from the human activities and climatic change. Ms. Ramakrishnan has expressed the hope that the knowledge of their distinct evolution and ecology could help for increasing conservation efforts.