Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sex determining gene found in Birds

Australian scientists have discovered the gene that makes birds male.

The discovery of the sex determining gene in birds, published in a recent edition of ‘Nature’, could help scientists understand sex disorders in humans.

Geneticist and author Professor Andrew Sinclair, of the Murdoch Children's Research Institute and the University of Melbourne, says locating the gene, known as DMRT1, is an enormous breakthrough that has eluded scientists for more than a decade.

In 1990, Sinclair was involved in discovering the mammalian sex determining gene SRY. But the same mechanism in birds has not been well understood.

Like humans birds have two sex chromosomes, except males carry two Z chromosomes while females carry one Z and one W chromosome, says Sinclair.

Sinclair says DMRT1 is found on the Z chromosome. He says they long suspected that DMRT1 played a role in sex determination because of its similar function in other animals, including humans.

Read the story
Read the research paper

Friday, August 21, 2009

Birds we watched during the month of July

‘Sri Lanka Birds’, online data base for bird observations around the country, completed another successful month by the end of July 2009. A short summary of the results obtained during the month of July is given in this brief report. This analysis is based on the data downloaded on 17th August 2009.

New members 10
FOGSL warmly welcomes new members to the ‘Sri Lanka Birds’ family. FOGSL encourages them to record their bird observations in the system as it will contribute to the conservation of Sri Lankan birds.

Total Number of Observations 1663
Number of Species 170
Number of Endemic Species 21
Number of Proposed endemic Species 7
Number of migrant species 7

Nesting records
Number of observations 18
Number of species 9
Species (Black-headed Munia, Common Myna, Great Egret, Intermediate Egret, Little Cormorant, House Crow, Purple-rumped Sunbird, Yellow-fronted Barbet and White-bellied Drongo)
Oriental Magpie Robin, Brown-headed Barbet, White-rumped Shama and White-breasted Waterhen were also reported in breeding stages other than nesting.

Mostly recorded species (No: of observations)
Red-vented Bulbul (63)
Oriental Magpie Robin (53)
White-throated Kingfisher (51)
Common Myna (49)
White bellied Drongo (48)

Top five users (No: of observations)
Newton Jayawardane (762)
Rahula Perera (202)
Nadika Hapuarachchi (196)
Nishantha Ganeshapriya (181)
Chandanie Wanigatunge (170)

A total of 37 locations were visited during July by ‘Sri Lanka Birds’ members. Highest number of observations was made at Ragama (390) as in many previous months.

Latest values for the number of field visits, number of observations and bird species, as well as the number of users registered in the system are shown in the login page of ‘Sri Lanka Birds’

FOGSL highly appreciates the contributions of members towards the conservation of birds through this initiative.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Gateway to the World of Birds

A Sinhala Lecture Series, aimed at motivating young students towards the fascinating world of birds, has been planned to facilitate participation of all who are interested without disturbing their busy schedules. This evening lecture series is scheduled from 26th to 31st October. This week long “knowledge festival” will be held at the Department of Zoology, University of Colombo.

For more information, contact FOGSL office.

Monday, August 3, 2009

New bird species discovered in Asia

An odd looking songbird with a bald head living in a rugged region in Laos has been discovered by scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the University of Melbourne, as part of a project funded and managed by the mining company MMG (Minerals and Metals Group).

The species has been named Bare-faced Bulbul Pycnonotus hualon because of the lack of feathers on its face and part of its head. It is the only example of a bald songbird in mainland Asia. It is the first new species of bulbul – a family of about 130 species – described in Asia in over 100 years. A description of the new species has been published in the July issue of Forktail, the journal of the Oriental Bird Club.

The thrush-sized bird is greenish-olive with a light-colored breast, a distinctive featherless, pink face with bluish skin around the eye extending to the bill and a narrow line of hair-like feathers down the centre of the crown.

The bird seems to be primarily tree-dwelling and was found in an area of sparse forest on rugged limestone karsts – a little-visited habitat known for unusual wildlife discoveries.

"Its apparent restriction to rather inhospitable habitat helps to explain why such an extraordinary bird with conspicuous habits and a distinctive call has remained unnoticed for so long", said Iain Woxvold of the University of Melbourne and lead author of the paper.

Fortunately much of the bird's presumed habitat falls within legally protected areas in Laos. However, quarrying of limestone looms as a potential threat to wildlife in this area, along with habitat conversion for agriculture.

Press release by Wildlife Conservation Society

Read the full paper
I.A. Woxvold, J. W. Duckworth and R. J. Timmins. 2009. An unusual new bulbul (Passeriformes: Pycnonotidae) from the Limestone karst of Lao PDR. Forktail 25: 1-12.

Photo Credit: I. Woxvold