MAR 05, 2015 1:11 PM PST

Bird Babbles Its Way Back From Extinction

WRITTEN BY: Judy O'Rourke
A little brownish bird last seen 74 years ago and thought to be extinct has called out yet again.

It was spotted by wildlife conservation scientists in Myanmar who were out surveying an area near a deserted agricultural site.
Jerdon's babbler (Chrysomma altirostre)
Jerdon's babbler (Chrysomma altirostre) was seen some months ago, and its new-found presence was described in Birding Asia, a publication of the Oriental Bird Club.

More babblers were found nearby in the days following the first sighting.

The scientists who heeded its singular call hail from the Wildlife Conservation Society, Myanmar's Nature and Wildlife Conservation Division - MOECAF, and National University of Singapore. They drew the feathered creature's blood and shot photos to document the find.

First described by a naturalist in 1862, the species had appeared to vanish from its habitat in wide-ranging natural grasslands in Myanmar in 1941. In the years since, development has sprung up atop the carpet of grass.

These birds were found in a similar habitat, and scientists will endeavor to find more such spots in the hopes of conserving them.

Scientists studying DNA samples aim to find if the birds seen in Myanmar should be considered a full species. "Our sound recordings indicate that there may be pronounced bioacoustic differences between the Myanmar subspecies and those further west, and genetic data may well confirm the distinctness of the Myanmar population," says Frank Rheindt, assistant professor, Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore. Rheindt oversaw the genetic analysis and was a prominent member of the scientific team out in the field.

These efforts are a piece of a bigger study examining the genetics of Myanmar bird species and the extent of the diversity of birds found there. (Some still call the country Burma, despite the fact that its leaders renamed it Myanmar some two decades ago.) The country has the greatest number of bird species among countries in Southeast Asia.
About the Author
  • Judy O'Rourke worked as a newspaper reporter before becoming chief editor of Clinical Lab Products magazine. As a freelance writer today, she is interested in finding the story behind the latest developments in medicine and science, and in learning what lies ahead.
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