June 10, 2023

Earth’s Most Unique Birds Face the Greatest Danger of Extinction

Blyths Kingfisher (Alcedo hercules). Credit: Joe Tobias
According to current research study, bird species with extreme or uncommon combinations of qualities deal with the biggest risk of extinction..
According to a new study carried out by Imperial College London researchers, the most distinct birds on the world are likewise the most endangered. The extinction of these types and the distinct roles they serve in the environment, such as seed predation, pollination, and dispersal, may have serious repercussions for the functioning of environments..
The research study, which is the most extensive of its type to date, examined the termination danger and physical features (such as wing length and beak shape) of 99% of all extant bird types.
Bristle-thighed Curlew (Numenius tahitiensis). Credit: Joe Tobias.
The scientists discovered that in simulated situations in which all threatened and near-threatened bird types became extinct, there would be a substantially higher reduction in the physical (or morphological) variety amongst birds than in scenarios where terminations were random.

Bird species that are both morphologically distinct and threatened include the Christmas Frigatebird (Fregata andrewsi), which nests only on Christmas Island, and the Bristle-thighed Curlew (Numenius tahitiensis), which migrates from its breeding grounds in Alaska to South Pacific islands every year.
Jarome Ali, a Ph.D. prospect at Princeton University who completed the research at Imperial College London and was the lead author of the research, stated: “Our study shows that terminations will probably prune a large proportion of special types from the avian tree. Losing these distinct types will indicate a loss of the specialized roles that they play in ecosystems.
Agami Heron (Agamia agami). Credit: Joe Tobias.
” If we do not do something about it to safeguard threatened types and avoid terminations, the functioning of ecosystems will be considerably interrupted.”.
In the research study, the authors used a dataset of measurements gathered from living birds and museum specimens, amounting to 9943 bird species. The measurements included physical characteristics like beak size and shape, and the length of tails, wings, and legs.
The authors integrated the morphological data with extinction danger, based on each species current risk status on the IUCN Red List. If the most threatened birds were to go extinct, they then ran simulations on what would occur.
The dataset utilized in the study was able to show that the most special birds were also classified as threatened on the Red List, it was unable to reveal what links originality in birds to extinction danger.
Jarome Ali said: “One possibility is that extremely specialized organisms are less able to adjust to a changing environment, in which case human impacts may straight threaten types with the most unusual ecological roles. More research is required to delve deeper into the connection between distinct qualities and extinction threat.”.
Referral: “Bird extinctions threaten to trigger out of proportion reductions of functional variety and originality” by Jarome R. Ali, Benjamin W. Blonder, Alex L. Pigot and Joseph A. Tobias, 23 November 2022, Functional Ecology.DOI: 10.1111/ 1365-2435.14201.
The research study was moneyed by the UK Natural Environment Research Council..