Scientists Discover Extremely Rare Half-Male, Half-Female Songbird
Bird experts have found a songbird that’s both male and female on different sides of its body.
The Powdermill Nature Reserve, at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, say it’s only the fifth ever of its kind they’ve uncovered, while having researched some 800,000 birds over the years.
Identified as a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, the male and female hybrid of the bird is notably distinguished by the colour of their respective bodies; males have pink ‘wing pits’, whereas a female’s are a yellow-brown.
‘Everyone here, I mean the whole crew, was just so excited,’ the nature reserve’s bird banding manager, Annie Lindsay, told CNN. ‘There was this scientific interest, of course. But also happiness for seeing something that was so rare.’
The phenomenon of the presence of both male and female characteristics is known as gynandromorphism, and scientists admit they don’t know much about the impacts it has on a bird’s life, but is believed not to affect their development and life span. ‘There probably aren’t any advantages to it,” Lindsay shared.
‘It will definitely impact its ability to mate. We don’t know if that female side has a functional ovary. If it does, and it is able to attract a male mate, it could reproduce.’
The discovery occurred during breeding season, after it was noted how the bird wasn’t adhering to any specific behavioural cues. When the researchers took part in its ‘banding’ – which is the process of attaching a small aluminium leg band to the bird and releasing it again – they found it to be unique; noting that it was around a year old and would likely survive to adulthood without a problem.
The amazing find is being touted by researchers as a ‘once in a lifetime’ discovery, even though a similar bird had been found some 15 years earlier. Gynandromorphism, believe it or not, isn’t all that uncommon throughout the animal and insect worlds, with spiders, crustaceans, and even chickens recorded as sharing both male and female features. It occurs thanks to a genetic error; an unfertilized egg with two nuclei fuses with sperm, subsequently producing an embryo with both male and female cells.
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