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Scientists Discover Three New Forest Robin Species in Africa

 

Previously thought to be monotypic, three new species in the bird genus Stiphrornis have been discovered; one in the Congo and two in West Africa. The new species have been named  Stiphrornis dahomeyensis (the Dahomey forest robin), Stiphrornis rudderi (Rudder’s forest robin), and Stiphrornis inexpectatus (Ghana forest robin).

Stiphrornis erythothorax, until now the only species in the genus Stiphrornis, by Joseph Smit, 1883, in the Catalogue of the birds in the British Museum, vol. 7.

Stiphrornis erythothorax, until now the only species in the genus Stiphrornis, by Joseph Smit, 1883, in the Catalogue of the birds in the British Museum, vol. 7.

 

Gustav Harlaub described the forest robin (Stiphrornis erythrothorax) in 1855 and until now, this was the only known species of this genus. Professor Gary Boelker, Texas A&M University, stated that genetic analysis showed that each species represents a very distinct lineage. They can be further distinguished from Stiphrornis erythrothorax by very apparent differences in appearance. There are subtle differences in plumage as well as clear differences in tail and wing length. In addition, one species’ song is very different from the others’.

The discovery of three new species is a perfect example of how much potential diversity may be discovered living among the Afrotropical forests. Earlier research concluded that Afrotropical forests were static in nature with little occurrence of evolutionary diversification. Recent discoveries have run counter to previous findings.

One point of interest is that two of the species, which look very similar at a glance, live in very close proximity with one another. What makes this interesting is the fact that the area lacks any of the significant geographical barriers which are most often associated with the formation of new species. In spite of this fact, the birds’ appearance is very different when examined closely and they share no genetic makeup.

 

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