Ornithologists have discovered a critically endangered crow, known to science only by two specimens described in 1900, on a remote, mountainous Indonesian island.
The Banggai Crow was believed by many to be extinct until Indonesian biologists finally secured two new specimens on Peleng Island in 2007.
Pamela Rasmussen, a Michigan State University assistant professor of zoology and renowned species sleuth, provided conclusive verification after studying the two century-old specimens known as Corvus unicolour in New York’s American Museum of Natural History.
“The morphometric analysis I did shows that all four unicolour specimens are very similar to each other, and distinctly different from enca specimens. We also showed that the two taxa differ in eye colour — an important feature in Corvus,” said Ms. Rasmussen, who specialises on the birds of southern Asia.
“Not only did this confirm the identity of the new specimens but also the specific distinctness of Corvus unicolour, which has long been in doubt,” she was quoted as saying by the Science Daily online.
She compared them to the new crow specimens in Indonesia’s national museum, to lay to rest speculation that they were merely a subspecies of a different crow. The more common Slender-billed Crow, or Corvus enca, also is found in the Banggai Islands, and likewise is all black.