"Extinct" Booby Not So Extinct, Only Wearing Mask for Disguise


Photo via sly06 via Flickr CC

It's always good news to find out that an extinct species is actually still hanging around. That's just the case with the booby. Turns out, a species once thought extinct is actually still living - it's simply been wearing a mask and going under a different name. Tricky, tricky. National Geographic reports that Masked boobies are actually Tasman boobies, a species thought to be extinct for centuries. Recently researchers cleared up a misunderstanding thanks to DNA and fossil research.

The Tasman booby was easy prey for humans, and from Polynesian sailors to European sailors, it was eaten into extinction. Or so we thought. Turns out, a close relative of the Tasman booby - the Masked booby - is actually the very same bird.

The double-naming came about, Steeves said, "because paleontologists and biologists in recent decades did not communicate." The fossil experts unknowingly compared ancient bones of female Tasman boobies to those of male "masked boobies." Unaware that Tasman booby females are markedly smaller than males, the paleontologists assumed they were looking at two species.

Now if that isn't a happy ending. One last positive note - this species isn't even close to being extinct. In fact, it ranks as "least concern" in the IUCN rankings. Congrats, Masked booby, on a witness protection program success story.

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Tags: Birds | Conservation | Ecology