The New Caledonian storm petrel, a brand new species, already endangered

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A brand new seabird endemic to New Caledonia is described within the Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Membership (11 March 2022) by a group together with CNRS and INRAE scientists from the Chizé Centre for Organic Research (CNRS / La Rochelle College). The invention is all of the extra exceptional as a result of the New Caledonian storm petrel, sighted since 2008, is represented by three “forgotten” museum specimens. It’s believed that, with an estimated inhabitants of 100 to 1,000 pairs, the species is already endangered.<

There are at the moment a little bit over 10,000 identified species of birds on the planet and, on common, one to 5 new ones are found yearly. Among the many 430 species of seabirds, a 3rd are petrels, shut cousins of the albatross. As a result of petrels are nocturnal, discreet, and primarily nest on secluded islands, we nonetheless know little about lots of them.

An unknown chook of the storm petrel household had been noticed off of Nouméa, New Caledonia, as early as 2008: its streaked underside distinguished it from different birds on this group which have white bellies. Common sightings of birds of the identical look within the Coral Sea (east of Australia), starting in 2010, attracted the eye of specialists.

New Caledonian Storm Petrel, copyright Rob Morris, from the surfbirds galleries

Different seemingly unconnected clues had additionally lengthy intrigued ornithologists. Specifically, 5 museum specimens of petrels with streaked bellies, collected at the least a century in the past throughout Pacific expeditions and stored in varied museums all through the world, had been erroneously assigned to 3 completely different species. Not too long ago, three of those museum specimens have been formally recognized because the New Zealand storm petrel (Fregetta maoriana), a chook beforehand thought extinct however rediscovered in 2003. Certainly, that is the species ornithologists initially thought that they’d noticed off Nouméa in 2008.

By way of painstaking examine of the birds’ morphology and genetics, in addition to of museum archives and birds at sea, the petrels seen south of Nouméa and within the Coral Sea have now been positively recognized as members of a “new” species—dubbed the New Caledonian storm petrel (Fregetta lineata)—together with two of the 5 mysterious outdated museum specimens (one collected from the Marquesas Islands in 1922; the opposite from Samoa in 1839) and a 3rd, more moderen specimen collected in 1973, on an island off Brisbane, Australia.

The authors of the examine present proof that F. lineata breeds in New Caledonia: {a photograph} taken in September 2014 exhibiting a chick from the island nonetheless partially coated in down. Specimen assortment dates strongly recommend that the Marquesas Islands and Samoa are in its non-breeding vary.

So, the place precisely in New Caledonia do the storm petrels breed? All of the islets within the southern lagoon of New Caledonia have been visited and punctiliously searched, and researchers have spent many nights on most of them; but no storm petrel has been seen or heard. The brand new species may breed on islets within the unexplored Bouloupari Lagoon—or inland, presumably within the Tontouta River valley, which is the breeding territory of one other species of petrel. Primarily based on the variety of people sighted at sea, the entire inhabitants could also be within the order of 100 to 1,000 pairs, and now critically endangered. Thus, it’s pressing that the breeding grounds of F. lineata be discovered, to instantly take motion for its safety.

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