Ottawa, Dec 26.- Scientists have discovered the first known hybrid bird species to be found in the Amazon rainforest, a golden-crowned manakin with yellow feathers.
A hybrid species forms when two parental species mate to produce a hybrid population, which then stops being able to interbreed with the parental species. In this case the two parents are the snow-capped manakin, named for its bright snowy-white crown feathers, and the opal-crowned manakin, named for its brilliant iridescent crown feathers.
Through a series of genetic and other tests researchers found that the golden-crowned manakin, first discovered in Brazil in 1957 but not seen again until 2002, is in fact a hybrid species.
They determined it was around 180,000 years ago when the two parental species originally mated, and that both parental species diverged from a common ancestor about 300,000 years ago, making all three very recent birds by Amazon rainforest standards.
'While hybrid plant species are very common, hybrid species among vertebrates are exceedingly rare,' said Jason Weir, from University of Toronto in Canada. 'Most Amazon bird species diverged from their most recent relative around 1.5 to 4 million years ago, so these are all young birds by comparison' said Prof.Weir.
The male golden-crowned has unique yellow crown feathers that are much duller than its parental species. To learn more about this unusual characteristic, the researchers took a closer look at the keratin structure of the crown feathers of all three bird species using an electron microscope.
The golden-crowned manakin lives in an area of the south-central Amazon Rainforest that is about 200 square kilometres and is largely separated from areas where snow- capped and opal-crowned manakin live. (Prensa Latina)