In the extreme climate in the south of the American continent where strong winds blow and vegetation is sparse, a group of researchers has identified a new species of bird, the little Subantarctic Rayadito, a finding that sheds light on the importance of preserving those remote places.
After six years of research, a group of scientists from several universities grouped together in the Cape Horn International Center for Studies on Global Change and Biocultural Conservation (CHIC), which is dedicated to applied studies in that area in the extreme south of Chile, described the new species that lives on an island in the middle of the ocean, between the southernmost points of the continent.
How did it get there, the scientists wondered, a small animal that usually lives in more wooded environments and a little further north.
“This research has been like an obsession, how a bird that lives in the forest habitat, which has the habit of feeding on trunks and branches, of nesting in trunk cavities, how does it come to live in a place where there are no trees,” said Ricardo Rozzi, an academic from the University of Magallanes and the University of North Texas and director of CHIC.
“There are no bushes and no woody species, literally in the middle of the ocean a forest bird has managed to survive,” added the researcher about the place where the small bird lives, the Diego Ramírez Islands, which “are still very little known by society Chilean and this small endemic bird will be a symbol or emblematic species that will contribute to its knowledge”.
The finding was reported Friday in Nature’s “Scientific Reports” journal.
The Subantarctic Rayadito (Aphrastura subantarctica) is distinguished from the species Spinicauda Rayadito (Aphrastrura spinicauda), which inhabits the southern forests of Patagonia such as those of Navarino Island, in Puerto Williams, where they nest in tree cavities.
According to another of the researchers, the biologist at the University of Chile and linked to CHIC, Rodrigo Vásquez, the species was poorly described in the literature, but with more in-depth studies “we were able to see genetically that it differs in a mutation from the rest of the species of the classic Rayadito”, in addition to other differences in form and behavior.
The new species has a more robust appearance, weighs 16 grams (four more than the skate known so far) and has a larger beak, among other characteristics. It is not a great flier and nests on the ground, in a place where wind gusts exceed 100 kilometers per hour.