An international team of researchers coordinated by ornithologist Bret Whitney has published 15 species of birds previously unknown to science. The formal description of these birds has been printed in a special volume of the “Handbook of the Birds of the World” series. Not since 1871 have so many new species of birds been introduced under a single cover. Whitney is with the Museum of Natural Science at Louisiana State University,
Authors also include ornithologists from Colombia.
Most of the new species were discovered by detecting differences in their songs and calls in the field.
“Birds are, far and away, the best-known group of vertebrates, so describing a large number of uncatalogued species of birds in this day and age is unexpected, to say the least,” said Whitney. “But what’s so exciting about this presentation of 15 new species from the Amazon all at once is, first, highlighting how little we really know about species diversity in Amazonia, and second, showing how technological advances have given us new toolsets for discovering and comparing naturally occurring, cohesive populations with other, closely related populations.”
Amazonia is home to far more species of birds – approximately 1,300 – and more species per unit area, than any other area. Technological advances such as satellite imagery, digital recordings of vocalizations, DNA analysis and high-powered computation power have taken the age of discovery to the next level, and were key ingredients in the discovery of these new species. However, such discoveries still depend on exploration of remote areas of the Amazon rainforest, just as they did a century ago, and this sort of fieldwork has been carried out by the museum staff every year since the early 1960s.