Bird Named After God Hanuman Reinstated As Species After 86 Years

Bird Named After God Hanuman Reinstated As Species After 86 Years

by Swarajya Staff - Thursday, April 20, 2023 06:05 PM IST
Bird Named After God Hanuman Reinstated As Species After 86 YearsMale Hanuman Plover (Photo: Avian Sciences and Conservation)

The Hanuman plover bird has found its status elevated from a subspecies to a species after 86 years.

Researchers hope that the bird, native to India and Sri Lanka, as well as its at-risk habitats, which are the wetlands, now find favour in conservation efforts, especially funding.

The small bird, similar to a Robin in size and colour, is named after the god Hanuman.

It was merged with the Kentish plover in the 1930s because they were believed to be the same species.

But DNA sequencing confirmed subtle differences that split the two bird groups apart.

A species is a group that cannot interbreed successfully with other species, while a subspecies is a geographically isolated group within a species.

"While we don't know if the Hanuman plover is threatened at the moment, it lives in an area which has one of the highest human population densities on the planet," said Alex Bond, who co-authored the study and is a principal curator at the Natural History Museum in the United Kingdom.

"Having a name attached to these birds means it is easier for policymakers and politicians to notice these plovers and take any steps needed to help them," Bond said.

Plovers are a species of shorebirds found worldwide, excluding polar regions. With varied habitats and lifestyles, they feed on invertebrates.

Scientists gathered data from both live and preserved Hanuman plovers to determine if the bird should be classified as more than just a subspecies.

Findings showed that these birds have smaller wings, tails, and beaks, plus a unique plumage, compared to the Kentish plover.

Researchers reported that Kentish plovers have black legs in both sexes, while the Hanuman plover has dark grey legs with males having a black stripe across their forehead.

Hanuman plovers were also found to molt earlier and different feathers before breeding season, compared to their relatives.

Genetic research especially revealed that these birds were distinct species, having diverged approximately 1.2 million years ago in an event known as the Mid-Pleistocene Transition, researchers suggest.

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