DNA test on new par­rot species Doubt on bird find

Townsville Bulletin - - The North On Holidays - By DANIEL BATE­MAN

NORTH Queens­land nat­u­ral­ist John Young will have to pro­duce ‘ex­tra­or­di­nary’ ev­i­dence to prove his dis­cov­ery of a new par­rot species is real.

The Ing­ham-based bird­watcher claimed he re­dis­cov­ered the rare Coxen’s fig par­rot last month.

His dis­cov­ery is await­ing a DNA test that Mr Young hopes will prove it is ei­ther the same bird, which has not been seen in the wild for 130 years, or an en­tirely new species.

Since his find was an­nounced, how­ever, it has been ques­tioned by bird­watch­ers and me­dia.

Mr Young, how­ever, as­sured the TownsvilleBul­letin his dis­cov­ery was real, claim­ing ev­ery­one would have to wait un­til fur­ther ev­i­dence was pub­lished in a sci­en­tific pa­per.

The Aus­tralian Mu­seum’s bird col­lec­tion man­ager Wal­ter Boles said he would like to be­lieve the dis­cov­ery was real, but Mr Young still had much to prove.

‘‘My hope is that if John Young did in­deed get a lit­tle bit of feather ma­te­rial from the chicks and they’re able to do DNAon it and com­pare it with Coxen’s fig par­rot we will have a much more ob­jec­tive an­swer to this,’’ Dr Boles said.

The fig par­rot was spot­ted at a se­cret lo­ca­tion in south-east Queens­land.

Dr Boles said the chances of find­ing an en­tirely new species in the same habi­tat as a sim­i­lar rare bird — the Coxen’s fig par­rot — would be re­mark­able.

‘‘Given that it is an ex­tra­or­di­nary find, it would take ex­tra­or­di­nary proof to demon­strate it,’’ he said.

The Aus­tralian Mu­seum sup­plied ge­netic ma­te­rial from Coxen’s fig par­rots in its col­lec­tion to prove Mr Young’s dis­cov­ery.

Dr Boles said if the DNAtests showed it was a new species, it would be an in­cred­i­ble dis­cov­ery for Aus­tralia.

‘‘Find­ing a new species in this part of the world and cer­tainly in Aus­tralia is cer­tainly a fairly rare event,’’ he said.

‘‘We de­scribed a new one in 1983 and there were a cou­ple back in the 1960s and 70s.

‘‘If you find some­thing that’s never been seen be­fore, then that’s nice. We like those sorts of things.’’

Birds Aus­tralia North Queens­land con­venor Tony Grice said he would ac­cept Mr Young’s dis­cov­ery.

‘‘At this stage I would give him the ben­e­fit of the doubt,’’ he said.

He said a bird species was re­cently found in the US that had not been seen in decades.

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