New Rail in Madagascar
by Nate Swick
Big news from one of the earth's great biodiversity hotspots:
In a recent issue of the scientific journal Zootaxa, researchers from Madagascar and the United States described a new species of forest-dwelling rail. The new bird was named Mentocrex beankaensis, with the genus Mentocrex being endemic to Madagascar and the new species beankaensis being coined after the type locality, the Beanka Forest in western central Madagascar. This species was distinguished from another in the same genus, known from the eastern portion of the island, based on aspects of size, plumage, and DNA.
The other member of the genus mentioned is Mentrocrex kiolodes, the also endemic Madagascar Wood Rail. But the dramatic landscape of the Beanka Forest, also referred to as Tsingy from the Malagasy word “mitsingitsigina” or “to walk on tip toe” and characterised by sheer limestone cliffs, jagged spires and slot canyons, is a region of high endemism in a nation famous for its biodiversity. Many plants, several reptiles, and two species of lemur are also restricted to the area and the new Mentocrex rail was only the first of several new species described from this particular trip.
The discovery is a reminder, as if one was required, of the critical need to protect such unique ecosystems, especially those on islands.