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UF scientists discover new genus of frogmouth bird in Solomon Islands

consider that modern humans and Neanderthals are different species within the same genus (Homo), while chimpanzees are our living relatives from a closely related genus (Pan), but that we share the same taxonomic family (Hominidae) with our chimp cousins.

The Solomon Islands Frogmouth differs from other frogmouths in a number of significant ways. First, it is probably not as accomplished of a flier because its eight tail-feathers, instead of the typical 10 to 12 on other frogmouths, curtail its lift potential, and its much coarser feathers reduce maneuverability.

"These are island adaptations that work to keep the bird on the island," Steadman said.

Second, it has distinct barring on the primary wing feathers and tail feathers, where other frogmouths are more uniform. Its speckles are larger, and the white spots on its breast and underbelly are more pronounced than on other frogmouths.

Two other genera of frogmouths exist: one in southeast Asia and the other in Australia and New Guinea. The Solomon Islands Frogmouth is known to inhabit three islands: Isabel, Bougainville and Guadalcanal.

Van Remsen, curator of birds at the Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science, said that this new frogmouth genus serves as a poignant reminder that birds of the tropics, particularly from southeast Asia to Melanesia, have been paid scant attention by science.

"They’ve barely been studied, much of what we know comes from antiquated or casual observations," Remsen said. "The biology of birds in these regions is, to a great extent, obscured by stale, hand-me-down classifications from an earlier era. A combination of detailed morphological and genetic analyses reveal that this frogmouth ?formerly dismissed as just a race of an existing species ?actually cannot be placed confidently in any existing genus, and so the data demand naming a new one."

Storrs Olson, a senior zoologist with the Smithsonian I
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Source:University of Florida


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