SANTIAGO (Reuters) – In a sparse, windswept field on the frigid tip of South America lives a tiny bird whose peaceful life is extolling the importance of studying the world’s most remote places.
On the Diego Ramírez Islands, 100 kilometers from Cape Horn in southern Chile, scientists have identified the sub-Antarctic ray, a 16-gram brown bird with black and yellow bands and a large beak that is baffling biologists.
That’s because the subantarctic chilean ray, which resembles a species of chile ray that inhabits the forests of southern Patagonia and makes its nests in trunk cavities, was found living in a place without trees.
“There are no shrubs or forest species, a forest bird managed to literally survive in the middle of the ocean,” said Ricardo Rozzi, a researcher at the University of Magallanes in Chile and the University of North Texas and director of the Cabo Horn International Center for the Study of Global Change and Biocultural Conservation (CHIC).
The discovery, reported on Friday in the scientific journal Nature, follows a six-year investigation in which the tiny bird became an “obsession” for researchers, Rozzi said.
One of the researchers, Rodrigo Vasquez, a biologist at the University of Chile, said genetic studies have confirmed that the newly discovered species “differs in one mutation from the rest of the classic Chilean rayfish” as well as other differences in shape and behavior.
The researchers said they had captured and measured 13 individuals on the island. The birds in the Diego Ramírez population were significantly heavier and larger (with a longer, wider beak and longer tarsi), but had a significantly shorter tail?, they said in Nature.
(Reporting by Natalia Ramos)