‘Zoothera Salimali’ a new member in the avian family

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An international group of ornithologists named a newly discovered species after Salim Ali, the birdman of India thus paying tribute to the man who shaped generations of ornithologists.

Himalayan Forest Thrush (scientific name Zoothera salimali) which has been discovered from northeastern India and adjacent parts by a team of researchers from Sweden, India, China, the U.S., and Russia.

indiaPreviously, a bat species — Salim Ali’s fruit bat — that was first collected from Western Ghats region of Theni district, TN was named after the legendary ornithologist.

The present study was initiated in June 2009 by Per Alström of Uppsala University, Sweden and Shashank Dalvi of the Alumnus of the Post Graduate Program, Wildlife Conservation Society- National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore, while studying birds at high elevations of Western Arunachal Pradesh. The scientists had discovered that there were two species of Plain-backed Thrush breeding in sympathy in Arunachal Pradesh. These were completely segregated by elevation and habitat, one occurring in mostly coniferous forest up to the upper tree limit and the other in alpine habitats above the tree limit. Their songs were strikingly different, although no definite morphological differences were detected in the field.

According to the scientists, it was realised that what was considered as a single species, the Plain-backed Thrush Zoothera mollissima , was in fact two different species in northeastern India. While the Plain-backed Thrush in the coniferous and mixed forest had a rather musical song, those individuals found in the same region, but on bare rocky habitats above the tree-line had a much harsher, scratchier, unmusical song.

The studies of specimens from 15 museums in 7 countries revealed differences in plumage and structure between birds from these two populations. It was confirmed that the species breeding in the forests of the eastern Himalayas had no scientific name. Later, the new species was named as Himalayan Forest Thrush Zoothera salimali. The high-elevation Plain-backed Thrush is now renamed as Alpine Thrush while it retains the scientific name of Zoothera mollissima.

The research was published in Avian Research.