Researchers exploring the Western Ghats have found two new endemic genera and a new species of songbird. Undertaken by V.V Robin, C K Vishnudas, Sushma Reddy, Frank E. Rheindt, Pooja Gupta, Daniel M.Hooper and Uma Ramakrishnan, the research was published in the latest issue of BMC Evolutionary Biology.
The research team has designated two new genera, the Western Ghats shortwings as Sholicola and the laughing thrushes as Montecincla. While Sholicola are closely related to the flycatchers, the Montecincla are closely related to babblers.
The songbird Sholicola are confined to Agasthyar Malai mountain ranges. Montecincla genera include species such as Montecincla jerdoni, Montecincla fairbanki and Montecincla cachinnans. Montecincla meridionalis belongs to Montecincla genus.
Sholicola major and Sholicola albiventris belong to Sholicola genus.Though many people had noted the difference in feather patterns of these birds across populations in different mountain tops, they were still bracketed under a single species. It was the genetic data that proved otherwise.
According to the new study, the birds originally known as Western Ghats shortwings are actually flycatchers. The species that were called laughing thrushes are more closely related to babblers. According to one of the researchers Sushma Reddy, upon reconstruction of the genetic relationship of the species, it was clear that the two lineages are very different from the genera they were in earlier.
The habitat of these birds is located in the most vulnerable part of the ecosystem, as they reside in fragmented forest patches on the highest peaks of the range, which are increasingly getting affected by human activities and climate change. However, according to another researcher Uma Ramakrishnan, the knowledge of their evolution and ecology would help increase conservation efforts.