New species of Cyornis flycatcher spotted in Himalayas

| | Haridwar
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New species of Cyornis flycatcher spotted in Himalayas

Monday, 01 July 2019 | RADHIKA NAGRATH | Haridwar

A research team from the Gurukul Kangri Vishwavidyalaya has claimed to have discovered a new species of the Cyornis flycatcher bird in the Himalayas. Himalayas are well-known for their rich bio-diversity and are considered as a mega hot-spot for bio-diversity. The varied habitat and topography here proves to be a breeding ground for uncountable species. Recently, a new species of the flycatcher bird Dialilaenus/Hainanus has been discovered in the Himalayas by scientists of the Haridwar-based university, in collaboration with other institutions. The findings of this study have been published in a renowned British journal as well. It took three years for the research team to complete the work.

The research team, headed by Dinesh Bhatt from the Avian Diversity and Bioacoustics Laboratory, Gurukul Kangri Vishwavidyalaya in collaboration with Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun; Chicago University, Sweden University, and Uttarakhand Forest Department has discovered this new species and subspecies of Cyornis flycatcher group from the Indian Himalayan region.

Species of the flycatcher bird of the Cyornis taxonomic group include Blue Throated Blue Flycatcher, Pale Blue Flycatcher, Pale Chined Flycatcher, and Large Blue Flycatcher, all breeds that are found in the Himalayan region. All these species look similar in appearance, but almost nothing is known about their vocalisation, singing pattern and distribution range.

Ashutosh Singh, a researcher and field biologist, who was also a part of the research team, explored whether apart from being morphologically similar, these flycatchers also had similar song structure and DNA. Scientists believe that the species that look morphologically similar should belong to the same genus and species. This hypothesis was tested in the current study.

Singh said, “Our team conducted the research, recorded songs of flycatchers and collected biological samples. We also took photographs of the landscape and visible avian species in the Himalayan region of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand as well as north-eastern Himalayan regions such as Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Meghalaya, and Nagaland. The bird songs were analysed with the help of software, while spectrograms were prepared and compared. Results were very interesting, but contrary to the existing hypothesis.”

Scientists now believe that this bird species reached the Western Himalayas from Eastern Himalayas after the last glaciations era. Contrary to the existing hypothesis, this study did not find any significant change in the song structure and vocalisation pattern of these flycatchers, even though these species were separated geographically thousands of years ago. On the basis of the DNA analysis of these species, a ‘time calibrated phylogenetic tree’ was prepared and results were drawn.

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