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New Species of Owl Discovered in Philippines

Aug 20, 2012 05:17 AM EDT
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A study conducted by the Michigan State University states that two new species of owl have been discovered in Philippines.

Assistant professor of zoology, and assistant curator of mammalogy and ornithology at the Michigan State University Museum, Pam Rasmussen was instrumental in the discovery of two new species of owl found in Philippines.

Rasmussen, lead author of the paper published in the current edition of Forktail, the Journal of Asian Ornithology said, "More than 15 years ago, we realized that new subspecies of Ninox hawk-owls existed in the Philippines. It wasn't until last year that we obtained enough recordings that we could confirm that they were not just subspecies, but two new species of owls."

According to Rasmussen the finding of two new species is very rare in ornithology. The first species that was discovered is the Camiguin Hawk-owl. MSU confirms that this owl lives only on the small island of Camiguin Sur, off the coast of northern Mindanao. In a video that shows the two new species found, Rasmussen says "The Camiguin Owl was originally thought to be the same form that occurred in geographically immediate areas such as Cebu." However, in a study released by MSU, the University states that the "Camiguin Hawk-owl has now been proven to have distinct morphology and vocal qualities that distinguish it from other species. These blue-gray eyed owls have a long solo that begins with a low growl and crescendos, with pairs of owls performing duets in short staccatos."

The second species found was the Cebu Hawk-owl. This species of owl was thought to have come extinct due to the destruction of its natural habitat. MSU states: "The deforestation of Cebu was not able to entirely annihilate the population, which had never before been cataloged. It was the distinct voice of the Cebu Hawk-owl that provided researchers with the evidence that the species was unique."

"The owls don't learn their songs, which are genetically programmed in their DNA and are used to attract mates or defend their territory; so if they're very different, the must be a new species," Prof. Rasmussen said. "When we first heard the songs of both owls, we were amazed because they were so distinctly different that we realized they were new species." Sound recordings of both new species, as well as other birds, are available on the Avian Vocalizations Center website.

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