vrijdag 21 november 2014

The Sad Story of the Alaotra Grebe

A reflection on the extinction of a Grebe and ending on a positive note

Ever heard of the Alaotra Grebe (Tachybaptus rufolavatus)? This small bird lives on the remote island of Madagascar. Or lived,  I should say, because it went extinct a few decades ago. The disappearance of this species is due to a combination of factors, such as poaching and the introduction of predatory fish.

Only known picutre of a wild Alaotra Grebe

But another factor that contributed to the extinction of this grebe was hybridization with the African Little Grebe (T. ruficollis). Extensive interbreeding between these species was described by Voous and Payne (1965). Given that hybridization often leads to the exchange of genetic material between species (a process known as introgression), maybe some part of the Little Grebes' genome is Alaotra Grebe DNA. So, this extinct bird species might still live on in the gene pool of his close relatives.

Artistic impression of the Alaotra Grebe

Voous, K. & Payne, B.G. (1965) The Grebes of Madagascar. Ardea, 53:9-31.

Three Grebe-species from Madagascar (from Voous & Payne 1965).

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