Based on DNA study, the South African cape parrot has been categorized as a new species, vulnerable to extinction. The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE.
The cape parrot is considered to be a subspecies of the brown-necked parrot, which is not threatened to become extinct.
However, a thorough DNA analysis showed that it separated itself from the brown-necked parrot approximately two million years ago. Therefore, the cape parrot is now considered a separate species.
Under the International Union of Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources’ Red List of Threatened Species it may be listed as a “vulnerable species”.
According to the Convention of the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, this species can also be considered endangered, and, therefore, worthy of protection.
Animals and plants related to one another are considered as subspecies, provided they don’t interbreed. Moreover, in this case, the cape parrot and brown-necked parrot breed and eat differently, also in different trees.
Previous evidence was not convincing, though, as Birdlife International stated that it was unclear whether the two parrot species overlapped and whether they belonged to different habitats.
The new study, however, would contradict Birdlife International, as the new scientific assumption gave way to the need of investigating further genetic data. The new research team stated that their analysis of 130 parrot specimens, including the cape parrot and the brown-necked parrot allowed them to state the cape parrot is, indeed, a wholly different species.
However, the organization Birdlife International is skeptical whether the cape parrot should be categorized as new, separate species. It seems that the concept of dividing animals into species is an elusive idea.
The South African research team has concluded via their DNA analysis that the cape parrot was different from all its closest relatives.
Prof. Sandi Willows-Munro, senior lecturer in the genetics department at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, co-author of the study, explained that strong evidence suggested the cape parrot (Poicephalus robustus) encompassed an altogether different species from the P. robustus subspecies and the other species form the Poicephalus family.
Moreover, the reason why the cape parrot species is considered endangered is that its habitat is subjected to destruction, through forest clearing for agriculture and the trimming of trees where they reside in. Also, the propagation of a beak and feather disease emphasized the species’ vulnerability.
Photo Credits nationalgeographic.com