Scientists have discovered a new species of colorful songbird in the Galápagos Islands, with one catch: it’s extinct. Researchers from the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco State University (SFSU), the University of New Mexico (UNM), and the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory (SFBBO) used molecular data from samples of museum specimens to determine that two subspecies of Vermilion Flycatchers, both found only in the Galápagos, should be elevated from subspecies to full species status. One of these newly recognized species–the characteristically smaller San Cristóbal Island Vermilion Flycatcher–hasn’t been seen since 1987 and is considered to be the first modern extinction of a Galápagos bird species. The findings were published online earlier this May in the journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution.
“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. “This marks an important landmark for conservation in the Galápagos, and a call to arms to understand why these birds have declined.”
Caption:The California Academy of Sciences houses the largest collection of Galápagos bird specimens in the world. A drawer is seen here with specimens from various species and subspecies of Vermilion Flycatchers. Credit: © Jack Dumbacher and the California Academy of Sciences