Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Researchers find differences between Galapagos and mainland frigatebirds

Date:
September 29, 2010
Source:
Smithsonian
Summary:
The Galapagos population of the magnificent frigatebird may be its own genetically distinct species warranting a new conservation status, according to a new study.

Researchers at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute conducted three different kinds of genetics tests to determine that the Galapagos population of magnificent frigatebirds has been genetically different from the magnificent frigatebirds elsewhere for more than half a million years.
Credit: Frank Hailer, Smithsonian's National Zoo

Although the magnificent frigatebird may be the least likely animal on the Galapagos Islands to be unique to the area, it turns out the Galapagos population of this tropical seabird may be its own genetically distinct species warranting a new conservation status, according to a paper by researchers at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History and the University of Missouri-St. Louis published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Related Articles


The Galapagos Islands, which once served as a scientific laboratory for Charles Darwin, boast a number of unique plant and animal species, from tortoises to iguanas to penguins. Magnificent frigatebirds, however, can fly hundreds of kilometers across open ocean, suggesting that their gene flow should be widespread and their genetic make-up should be identical to those of the magnificent frigatebirds on the mainland coast of the Americas. Even Darwin predicted that most Galapagos seabirds would not be very different from their mainland counterparts. But researchers at SCBI conducted three different kinds of genetics tests and all yielded the same result -- the Galapagos seabirds have been genetically different from the magnificent frigatebirds elsewhere for more than half a million years.

"This was such a surprise," said Frank Hailer, a postdoctoral research associate at SCBI and lead author of the paper. "It's a great testimony to just how unique the fauna and flora of the Galapagos are. Even something that is so well-adapted to flying over open oceans is isolated there."

Scientists began the research to determine whether the magnificent frigatebird on the Galapagos was more similar genetically to the magnificent frigatebirds on the Caribbean side or the Pacific side of the islands. Using frigatebird samples from Betty Anne Schreiber at the National Museum of Natural History, Iris Levin and Patricia Parker at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and those they collected in the field, SCBI researchers determined that the Galapagos version differ not only genetically, but also morphologically.

Now scientists are left with a number of questions: Are the genetics of the magnificent frigatebird on the Galapagos different enough to classify it as a distinct species? And what, exactly, accounts for the genetic and morphological differences when the seabirds can travel far and wide and therefore should not be isolated to one area to reproduce? SCBI and National Museum of Natural History researchers plan to collaborate with others in the field to find the answers.

What is clear, however, is that this small population of genetically unique magnificent frigatebirds is a vulnerable population. Any catastrophic event or threats by humans could wipe out the approximate 2,000 magnificent frigatebirds that nest on the Galapagos Islands.

"The magnificent frigatebirds on the Galapagos are a unique evolutionarily significant unit, and if the Galapagos population did go extinct, the area will not likely be recolonized rapidly by mainland birds," said Robert Fleischer, head of SCBI's Center for Conservation and Evolutionary Genetics and one of the paper's co-authors. "This emphasizes the importance of protecting this small population of birds there."

Magnificent frigatebirds are currently considered of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, but the Proceedings of the Royal Society B paper recommends that, because of the genetic uniqueness of those on the Galapagos, this status be revisited.

Authors of the paper: Frank Hailer, Smithsonian's National Zoo; E. A. Schreiber, Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History; Joshua Miller, Smithsonian's National Zoo; Iris Levin, University of Missouri-St. Louis; Patricia Parker, University of Missouri-St. Louis; Terry Chesser, U.S. Geological Survey and Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History; and Robert Fleischer, Smithsonian's National Zoo.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Smithsonian. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. F. Hailer, E. A. Schreiber, J. M. Miller, I. I. Levin, P. G. Parker, R. T. Chesser, R. C. Fleischer. Long-term isolation of a highly mobile seabird on the Galapagos. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2010; DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2010.1342

Cite This Page:

Smithsonian. "Researchers find differences between Galapagos and mainland frigatebirds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 September 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100928122606.htm>.
Smithsonian. (2010, September 29). Researchers find differences between Galapagos and mainland frigatebirds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100928122606.htm
Smithsonian. "Researchers find differences between Galapagos and mainland frigatebirds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100928122606.htm (accessed November 23, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Anglerfish Rarely Seen In Its Habitat Will Haunt You

Anglerfish Rarely Seen In Its Habitat Will Haunt You

Newsy (Nov. 22, 2014) — For the first time Monterey Bay Aquarium recorded a video of the elusive, creepy and rarely seen anglerfish. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Birds Around the World Take Flight

Birds Around the World Take Flight

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Nov. 22, 2014) — An imperial eagle equipped with a camera spreads its wings over London. It's just one of the many birds making headlines in this week's "animal roundup". Jillian Kitchener reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) — Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Baby Okapi Born at Houston Zoo

Raw: Baby Okapi Born at Houston Zoo

AP (Nov. 20, 2014) — The Houston Zoo released video of a male baby okapi. Okapis, also known as the "forest giraffe", are native to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Central Africa. Video is mute from source. (Nov. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins