Some fields of scientific study rack up an astounding rate of new species discoveries annually; think entomology as an example. But ornithologists are currently more likely to be subtracting species than adding them.
But last year Peter Pyle, a sharp eyed scientist at the Institute of Bird Populations noticed something amiss while studying a group of pelagic bird specimens in the Smithsonian’s collection from 1963. Pyle’s theory was strong enough to merit a DNA study and it was discovered that the small bird had been misidentified as a Little Shearwater. The analysis was correct and the bird was given the name Bryan’s Shearwater, Puffinus bryani.
The majority of the world’s 9,000 plus species of birds were discovered before 1900, so this was news indeed. But sadly the ornithological finding came too late and it was believed that the species was rare enough to be considered extinct.
Japanese researchers surprised other members of their field with suspicions to the contrary earlier this month. The species appears to be breeding in small numbers on the Ogasawara (Bonin) Islands, about 620 miles south of Tokyo. Although perhaps seriously endangered due to non-native rat predation, the news was thrilling to Pyle and his colleagues who hope to protect the species that they had believed was already lost.