Bryan’s Shearwater discovered in 2011

Bryans Shearwater

Possible Bryans Shearwater caught in 1990

For the first time in almost four decades, a new bird species has been discovered in the United States. But there’s a catch: the Bryan’s shearwater was identified in a museum collection. Though others have been reported, the first living bird-in-hand example awaits finding. On February 7, 2012, the DNA tests on 6 specimens found in Ogasawara alive and dead between 1997 and 2011 determined that they were Bryan’s Shearwater. It is assumed that Bryan’s Shearwater still survives in the uninhabited islands.

[abstract article]. Small black-and-white shearwaters of the genus Puffinus are distributed globally, and their phylogenetic relationships are complex and uncertain. In 1963 a small shearwater collected at Midway Atoll in the North Pacific Ocean was identified as a Little Shearwater (P. assimilis), but several physical features suggest closer alliance with Audubon’s Shearwater (P. lherminieri) and its relatives. Biometrics indicate that the taxon this specimen represents is smaller than any other known Shearwater, and phylogenetic analyses indicate it is distinct, with a pair-wise sequence divergence of at least 3.8% from related taxa. We thus propose a new species based on the specimen: Bryan’s Shearwater (Puffinus bryani nom. nov.). The breeding and nonbreeding ranges of Bryan’s Shearwater are unknown, but a physical resemblance to the North Atlantic boydi (of controversial taxonomic status within Puffinus) suggests an affiliation with subtropical or tropical waters. Bryan’s Shearwater is apparently rare and could be threatened by extinction; therefore, additional information is needed to increase our understanding of this taxon and its conservation requirements.

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