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Paradise Lost? Galapagos Records First Ever Bird Extinction

Aug 11, 2016 04:10 AM EDT
Vermilion Flycatcher
A newly discovered but extinct bird species marks a change in Galapagos Island, resulting to a huge blow in the idyllic landscape.
(Photo : Clinton & Charles Robertson/Creative Commons Image/Flickr)

Galapagos has long been a sanctuary for long-lost creatures, but a newl discovered but extinct bird species marks a change in the idyllic landscape.

According to a California Academy of the Sciences (CAL) press release sent to Nature World News, a study published in the journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution revealed that scientists from the California Academy of the Sciences, San Francisco State University, University of New Mexico and the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory (SFBBO) worked together to uncover the existence of two subspecies of the Vermilion Flycatchers.

Both subspecies are endemic to the Galapagos Islands, although the tiny San Cristóbal Island Vermilion Flycatcher was last spotted in 1987 and is now considered the first modern extinction in the widely revered archipelago.

Discovering the New Songbirds

The researchers did not have any living tissue samples of the animal to study, so they used molecular data from the California Academy of the Sciences.

These set of specimens has been collected and preserved from more than a century ago. It allowed the team to conduct DNA sequencing and figure out the history of the Vermilion Flycatchers.

There are 12 subspecies of the Vermilion Flycatchers, but two were discovered to be so genetically distinct that they were eventually determined to be separate species. One was the San Cristóbal Island Vermilion Flycatcher, which hasn't been seen in almost 30 years.

First Ever Extinction in Galapagos

The loss of the colorful songbird is a blow to the archipelago, which has been a bastion for species preservation lost to the rest of the world.

Jack Dumbacher, co-author and Academy curator of ornithology and mammalogy, believes their findings open up a need for further research.

"This marks an important landmark for conservation in the Galápagos, and a call to arms to understand why these birds have declined," Dumbacher explained.

Co-author Alvaro Jaramillo from SFBBO isn't quite giving up home yet, saying, "Wouldn't it be great if the San Cristóbal Vermilion Flycatcher weren't extinct? No one is looking, I'm pretty sure of that.

"At the very least, this discovery should motivate people to survey and see if there are any remaining individuals of the species hanging on that we don't know about."

New Freight Center

To help protect the bio-security of the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador is building a freight center in the port of Guayaquil.

According to a report from EFE, this was conceptualized to help combat the influx of invasive species that often spell trouble to the endemic biodiversity.

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