Research Article

A lost world in Wallacea: Description of a montane archipelagic avifauna

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  10 Jan 2020:
Vol. 367, Issue 6474, pp. 167-170
DOI: 10.1126/science.aax2146

Finding new species

Thousands of species have been described, and, although most may agree that many thousand remain undiscovered, identifying new taxa of charismatic vertebrates, like birds, is rare. Rheindt et al. describe five new songbird species and five new subspecies found on a single small island near Sulawesi, Indonesia, over a single 6-week expedition (see the Perspective by Kennedy and Fjeldså). They targeted the area because of its geological history and complexity and the historical notes of other explorers. They argue that similar approaches in other regions could also lead to the discovery of new species.

Science, this issue p. 167; see also p. 140


Birds are the best-known animal class, with only about five or six new species descriptions per year since 1999. Integrating genomic and phenotypic research with arduous fieldwork in remote regions, we describe five new songbird species and five new subspecies from a small area near Sulawesi, Indonesia, all collected in a single 6-week expedition. Two factors contributed to the description of this large number of species from such a small geographic area: (i) Knowledge of Quaternary Period land connections helped pinpoint isolated islands likely to harbor substantial endemism and (ii) studying accounts of historic collectors such as Alfred Wallace facilitated the identification of undercollected islands. Our findings suggest that humans’ understanding of biogeographically complex regions such as Wallacea remains incomplete.

View Full Text

Stay Connected to Science