Scientists Confirm New Bird Species In Indonesia

A newly identified species of bird has been named after the late conservation biologist, Professor Navjot Sodhi.

AsianScientist (Dec. 8, 2014) – Spotted on several occasions since 1997 in Sulawesi, a newly identified flycatcher has been named Muscicapa sodhii in honor of the late National University of Singapore (NUS) conservation biologist Professor Navjot Sodhi.

The Latin name which the bird was christened with pays tribute to the significant contributions Prof. Sodhi bestowed upon the scientific community during his long and illustrious career. An avid ornithologist, the late professor was instrumental in elucidating the effects of habitat disturbance on biodiversity, especially birds, across Southeast Asia. His research served as the basis for understanding the ecology of Southeast Asian forests and offered indispensable information for conservation planners. Prof. Sodhi passed away in 2011.

Assistant Professor Frank Rheindt from the NUS Department of Biological Sciences is one of the authors of the research paper describing Muscicapa sodhii published in PLoS One.

The bird was first observed in July 1997 by a group of tourists who were bird watching at the Lore Lindu National Park in Central Sulawesi at an estimated elevation of 1,000 meters. Subsequent field work to pin down the elusive bird was conducted within and around the national park; and in 2011 and 2012, the researchers were rewarded with sightings and specimens, the latter provided by a local bird hunter.

Muscicapa sodhii, also known as the Sulawesi Streaked Flycatcher, features a distinctively mottled throat, as well as shorter wings, a more-strongly hooked bill and shorter tail when compared against similar flycatchers. Its genetics and song further mark it from other flycatchers, setting it apart as a new species.

Prof. Rheindt, who handled the phylogenetic analysis of the specimen with his DNA sequencing work, played a critical role in the deduction that Muscicapa sodhii is a new species of flycatcher.

“Many different species of Muscicapa flycatchers look very similar to one another, so in order to make sure we’re not describing something that’s already known, we had to compare the DNA of this new species against the DNA of all other flycatcher species of the same genus which we could get hold of,” said Prof. Rheindt.

Prof. Rheindt added that one possible reason for the bird having escaped description for so long was that it tends to stay in the canopy or mid-storey of the tall trees in the area.

Besides the flycatcher, several animal species, including a snail, a fish as well as a new genus and species of crab carry Sodhi’s name.

Co-author of the paper, Dr. Harris from Princeton University, said: “The naming of so many species in honor of Sodhi shows how important he was to his students and collaborators. He probably would have been particularly pleased with our bird description, though, because he was an ornithologist, and so few bird species remain to be described.”

The article can be found at: Harris et al. (2014) A New Species of Muscicapa Flycatcher from Sulawesi, Indonesia.


Source: National University of Singapore.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

Asian Scientist Magazine is an award-winning science and technology magazine that highlights R&D news stories from Asia to a global audience. The magazine is published by Singapore-headquartered Wildtype Media Group.

Related Stories from Asian Scientist