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Spooky Nighttime Whistle Reveals New Owl Species

Yup! It’s another owl article. A new species of scops owl was recently discovered on Lombok island, Indonesia. The owl looks remarkably similar to other scops owls on nearby islands. However, this newly discovered Otus jolandae owl has a very different and distinctive song. The owl had been seen before and lumped together with Otus magicus, a very phenotypically similar owl, since 1896. It wasn’t until 2003 that scientists recorded an unusual owl song and thought they might be looking at a new species. DNA sequencing results will be published later this year, solidifying that O. jolandae is a new species.

Scops magicus = Otus magicus, Moluccan Scops Owl

Scops magicus = Otus magicus, Moluccan Scops Owl (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I liked this article because I didn’t think species as large as owls would be overlooked and having new species identified. The article has recordings of the two different owl species you can listen to, which is kind of neat. My favorite part of the article was the last paragraph about species identification. Using behavior to distinguish different species is a new way of thinking for me. In school, you memorize animals based on appearance, not behavior. I can see how it would be easy for science to lump together species based on looks. I think for the most part phenotype is an excellent indicator, but it’s cool that vocalizations and behavior can also undo some of the “lumping” and come up with new species!

Otis jolandae. Rinjani scops owl. Wiki Commons: Daniel Mietchen

Otis jolandae. Rinjani scops owl. Wiki Commons: Daniel Mietchen

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