Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Monk Parakeet and Carolina Parakeet May Be "Sister Species"

The Carolina Parakeet. Engraving
by John James Audubon
New research into the extinct Carolina Parakeet suggests that the Monk Parakeet (AKA Quaker Parrot, which is found all over Brooklyn) may in fact be a "sister species" to the extinct birds. 

In an article in the UK Guardian newspaper, researcher GirlScientist acknowledges that many physical features of the Carolina Parakeet"closely resemble these same features in several parrots in the genus Aratinga, leading most authorities to argue they are close relatives."


But she also notes that "other authorities have pointed out that the Carolina parakeet's fully feathered ceres, that fleshy area surrounding its nostrils, is a trait shared with the monk parakeet, Myiopsitta monachus, a parrot that still lives in temperate South America. For this reason, it has been proposed that the Carolina and monk parakeets may be sister species – each other's closest relatives."
The extinction of the Carolina Parakeet by European settlers is to many a kind of Original Sin against nature that must be atoned for. I always try to mention the Carolina Parakeet on my tours because I think that many people don't know about how badly we've treated indigenous American parrots in the past. If there's any atoning to do, it's to "cut the parrots some slack" (as we like to say in Brooklyn). The fact that the Monks and the Carolinas may be more closely related than previously thought makes the case for protecting the U.S.A's new indigenous parrots even stronger.


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