Stranded! Bird which landed on an island and forgot how to fly
A RARE bird found on a single remote island became stranded there because it forgot how to fly, scientists have revealed.
The Inaccessible Island rail, named after the volcanic isle where it lives, is the world’s smallest flightless bird.
Just 5,600 adults live on the South Atlantic island where they have no natural enemies and run around like small rodents in the vegetation.
Inaccessible Island’s sheer cliffs and boulder beaches made generations of passing sailors wary of difficult landings.
It has been without permanent inhabitants since 1873.
Scientists once believed the species arrived on foot via a now submerged land bridge and gave it the Latin name Atlantisia rogersi after the lost city of Atlantis.
But researchers at Lund University, Sweden have used DNA analysis to show that its ancestors flew there from South America 1.5 million years ago.
The bird’s closest living relatives are the dot-winged crake and the black rail found in South and North America.
Biologist Martin Stervander wrote in the online journal Molecular Phylogenetics And Evolution: “Rail birds are extremely good at colonising new remote locations and adapting to different environments. The bird has not had any natural enemies on the island and has not needed to fly in order to escape predators.
“Its ability to fly has therefore been reduced and ultimately lost through natural selection and evolution over thousands of years.”
Inaccessible Island is in the Tristan da Cunha archipelago, 1,500 miles from the island of St Helena. It is accessible only by sea for 60 days of the year via a seven-day sea voyage from Cape Town in South Africa.
Lund Professor Bengt Hansson said it was vital that efforts to stop enemies of the rare rail bird being introduced to the island continue. He said: “If that happens, it might disappear.”