Super-fancy bird may comprise a second species

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The colouration difference in the females might be indicative of a genetic difference but the different dance strikes me as a difference in culture.


I love these birds! They’re so wonderfully alien. David Attenbruh did a show about them, it must be online somewhere.

The small variations of bird species such as these across these islands helped Alfred Russel Wallace on to arriving at natural selection (plus Malthus and malaria, kind of).

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Seriously? Differentiating based on behavior?

Are humans who roll the toilet paper over the top a different species than people who roll out from under? Are breakdancers a different species than ballet dancers?
Minor coloration differences? Are blondes a different species than brunettes?

Guy just couldn’t wait to get his name on a species.

Is the Superb Owl related? /s


Whether it’s a different species or not, people that get out of their office, out of their country and out of any kind of comfort zone to chase down their ideas…these folks are hero’s to me. Trying to jack his creds up for bigger grants? Maybe with more bucks he’ll prove himself right or wrong but I’m glad are still people with the guts to do this stuff.


Cultural differences vary from one individual or tribe to another within the overall population. When you have two populations, one of which uses one elaborate mating ritual and the other uses a different elaborate mating ritual, but within each population the mating rituals from one region to another are cookie cutter identical, then you aren’t looking at culture, you’re looking at hard wired instincts.

Yes. Birds are not people. Many non-human mating behaviours are hard wired instincts. And even if you are looking at behaviours that are learned and not hard wired, sharp differences between two groups tell you that there’s no interaction between them. No interaction means they aren’t interbreeding, which is part of the functional definition of a species.

Comparing people to birds will lead you into error. Humans have an extremely high degree of variability in size, shape, and appearance compared to most other species. With tons of animal and bird species, the adults look like they came off an assembly line - same colours in the same patterns for every adult male and a different set of colours and patterns for every adult female. Differences in colour might be a single gene mutation or a regional adaptation to blend into a different environment, but differences in pattern usually mean that you’re looking at a different species or sub species.

When you add together all the differences in behaviour, appearance, etc that the video calls out, I definitely buy it that they’ve identified a new species of Bird of Paradise.

ETA: Every birding guide I have ever seen assumes that each species has a distinct colouration pattern and that each distinct colouration pattern in an adult bird of a given sex is a distinct species.


Thank you for clarifying all of this before I got here to do it much less eloquently.



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For your sake, I’m going to choice to believe that this wasn’t meant to be taken seriously, because suggesting that including behavioral phenotypes in species analysis means all behavioral differences have to be considered separate species is beyond disingenuous. They found genetic differences that suggest speciation, then tested and found differences in appearance and courtship behavior. Combined, that is a reasonable dataset to proceed as though they are distinct species.

Also I never tire of looking at these birds. Otherworldly coloring


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