According to a new research paper, an extremely rare and elusive bird species, believed by some to be extinct and others perhaps mythical might have not even existed in the first place.
Specialists have been trying to catch a glimpse of the bird for more than 30 years. But this latest research, which is based on a DNA analysis, offers a new potential explanation as to why this species might be so rare.
A Short History of the Phyllastrephus leucolepis, the Elusive Bird Species
Scientists are well aware of the existence of greenbuls and bulbuls. There are around 130 known species of this medium-sized and brightly-colored songbird. One of these species is the Phyllastrephus icterinus or the icterine greenbul.
Wulf Gatter, a German ornithologist, discovered a species that looked similar to it in the 1980s. Still, the spotted specimen differed from the icterine greenbul in that it had darker-colored wings, a paler tail, and the tips of its wings had bright white spots on them.
After reportedly spotting it nine more times, Gatter collected one such specimen, named it the Liberian greenbul, and deemed it a new species.
However, no other specimen was discovered since then. The fact that Liberia was inaccessible to ornithologic expeditions in the 1990s and early 2000s is just one factor.
After failing to find any individual belonging to this elusive bird species in two separate and recent expeditions, scientists took a different approach.
Two separate teams of scientists, one from Germany, the other from the United Kingdom, conducted DNA analyses.
Based on their results, the most likely explanation for this prolonged absence is the fact that the Liberian greenbul never existed in the first place.
Reports show that the icterine and Liberian greenbul present an “astonishing” number of genetic similarities. There were more than in between any of the known species of this bird.
“We can’t say definitively that the Liberian greenbul is the same bird as the icterine greenbul, but we have presented enough evidence that makes any other explanation seem highly unlikely,” declares Martin Collinson, who was part of the British study.
The DNA analysis also reportedly ruled out the possibility of the elusive specimen’s being a hybrid. Their research is detailed in a paper released in the Journal of Ornithology.
Still, the research teams also point out that they cannot definitely rule out the idea that this elusive bird species never live at all.
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