Scientists have discovered the first Galapagos endemic bird species to go extinct

The commonly known San Cristobal Vermillion Flycatcher hasn't been seen since 1987. 

In a study published in May in teh journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, scientists have found the first endemic bird species to extinct on the Galapagos Islands. Its the San Cristobal Vermillion Flycatcher, a bird that hasn't been seen since 1987.

Their research shows two currently subspecies of songbirds should be elevated to a full species status. They used mollecular data from samples of museum specimens in the Californi Academy of Sciences in San Francisco to sequence DNA and piece together their evolutionary history.

Both Vermillion Flycatcher species were found to be genetically disticnt to the continental species and the've elevated them to full species status, giving them the names of Pyrocephalus nanus and Pyrocephalus dubius.

Phyrocephalus nanus is found throughout most of Galapagos, but Pyrocephalus dubius, known as the San Cristobal Vermillion Flycatcher hasn't been seen for almost 30 years. "The population of dubius is presumed to be extinct, and thus would represent the first documented extinction of a Galápagos-endemic bird species," the study author's wrote.

“A species of bird that may be extinct in the Galápagos is a big deal,” says Jack Dumbacher, co-author and Academy curator of ornithology and mammalogy of the California Academy of Sciences in a statement. “This marks an important landmark for conservation in the Galápagos, and a call to arms to understand why these birds have declined.”

Vermillion Flycatchers have a complex evolutionary history, the study found,  as they've branched from an ancestral population into twelve subspecies that are found across America and the Galapagos.

The reason why the San Cristobal Vermillion Flycatcher went extinct is still uncertain, although there are two invasive threats, rats and parasitic flies. Rats climb into the bird's nest and eat their eggs  and the flies can kill chicks.

Nonetheless searches are being made to find if there is any individuals, said Alvaro Jaramillo, study co-author and biologist at the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory. “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.”

"Sadly, we appear to have lost the San Cristobal Vermilion Flycatcher,” says Jack Dumbacher, study co-author. “But we hope that one positive outcome of this research is that we can redouble our efforts to understand its decline and highlight the plight of the remaining species before they follow the same fate.”

Besides birds, Galapagos has already lost giant tortoises. In 2012 the tortoise found only on Pinta Island, Chelonoidis abingdoni went officially extinct when a male held in captivity known as Lonesome George died.


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LatinAmerican Post | Maria Andrea Marquez

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