Rare Hummingbird Hybrid Discovered in Peru with Gold Throat Color

Scientists have discovered a rare hummingbird hybrid in Peru’s Cordillera Azul National Park, a species with a dazzling gold throat that had never been seen before.[0]

John Bates, a curator of birds at Chicago’s Field Museum, was the first to spot the bird.[1] “I looked at the bird and said to myself, ‘This thing doesn’t look like anything else. My first thought was, it was a new species,” he said.[1]

DNA analysis revealed that the bird was actually a hybrid of two other species of hummingbirds: the Heliodoxa gularis, and the Heliodoxa branickii, both of which have pink throats.[2] “We thought it would be genetically distinct, but it matched Heliodoxa branickii in some markers, one of the pink-throated hummingbirds from that general area of Peru,” Bates explained.[3]

The research team used an electron microscope to examine the throat feather structure on a subcellular level, and an analytical technique called spectroscopy to measure how light bounces off the feathers to produce different colors.[4] In tracing the parents' colors back to their source, slight distinctions were discovered which explain why the hybrid progeny manifested a totally disparate hue.[3]

“There’s more than one way to make magenta with iridescence,” said study coauthor Chad Eliason, a Field Museum senior research scientist.[4] I believe the reason why mixing the two recipes for feather color can result in a nonlinear or surprising outcome is because the parent species each have their own method of producing magenta.[2]

Based on the speed of color evolution seen in hummingbirds, Eliason calculated that it would take 6-10 million years for this drastic pink-gold color shift to evolve in a single species.

Researchers predict that it would typically take six to 10 million years for a single species to produce the incredible range of colors seen among hummingbirds. Hybrids like this one, however, could be a contributor to this dramatic color change. It has been suggested that hybrids may be responsible for the variety of colors seen in different hummingbirds.[2]

DNA sequencing was initially conducted on mitochondrial DNA, a form of genetic material which is only inherited through the maternal lineage.[4] The mitochondrial DNA provided an unambiguous result that coincided with H.[4]

0. “Newly discovered hummingbird looks like it's wearing a golden collar” News8000.com – WKBT, 2 Mar. 2023, https://www.news8000.com/news/national-world/newly-discovered-hummingbird-looks-like-its-wearing-a-golden-collar/article_06e340e9-aa8a-5246-8cd8-5ab147e5eb05.html

1. “Iridescent pink and gold hummingbirds flummox scientists” Cosmos, 1 Mar. 2023, https://cosmosmagazine.com/nature/pink-gold-hummingbirds-hybrid

2. “Gold-throated hummingbird discovered in Peru” Yahoo Entertainment, 3 Mar. 2023, https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/gold-throated-hummingbird-discovered-peru-151854440.html

3. “Never-Before-Seen Gold-Throated Hummingbird Hybrid Stuns Scientists” IFLScience, 1 Mar. 2023, https://www.iflscience.com/never-before-seen-gold-throated-hummingbird-hybrid-stuns-scientists-67756

4. “Pink + pink = gold? Hybrid hummingbird's feathers don't match those of its parents” Phys.org, 1 Mar. 2023, https://phys.org/news/2023-02-pink-gold-hybrid-hummingbird-feathers.html

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