First Hybrid Bird Species from the Amazon

Science Fields

A team of researchers from the University of Toronto Scarborough described the first known hybrid bird species from the Amazon rainforest. The golden-crowned manakin (Lepidothrix vilasboasi), offspring of snow-capped manakin and opal-crowned manakin, discovered in 1957 in Brazil is finally confirmed as a hybrid species after extensive genetic studies and other tests.

Hybrid species form when parents from two different (but closely related) species breed and produce offspring. These offspring can still interbreed with the parental species and may sometimes start breeding among themselves, isolating their genes from their parents. This phenomenon is very common among plants, but extremely rare among vertebrates. In fact, it has never been documented in birds, until now.

Associate Professor Jason Weir and his team gathered genetic and feather samples from the region, enabling them to sequence a large part of the hybrid golden-crowned bird’s genome. The results revealed that about 20 percent of its genome came from the snow-capped manakin, with the other 80 percent from opal-crowned parent.

Research data shows that the two parental species originally mated about 180 thousand years ago, and the hybrid offspring eventually grew to form a meaningful population, evolving to become its own species with a different coloured crown. It is not entirely uncommon that hybrids of two species to occur in nature, but they don’t develop unique characteristics to become separate species in most cases. “This is what makes the golden-crowned manakin such a novel animal,” the team says.

The new hybrid bird has a different keratin structure than both of its parental species, which display itself on the crown feathers, making it a uniquely coloured new Amazon species. It gets its name from the yellow crown at the top of its wonderfully green body.

The golden-crowned manakin inhabits a small area of the south-central Amazon, largely separated from areas where its parental species live by wide rivers. “Without geographic isolation, it’s very likely this would never have happened because you don’t see the hybrids evolving as separate species in other areas where both parental species meet,” says Weir.



  • 1. https://scitechdaily.com/researchers-discover-first-known-hybrid-bird-species-from-the-amazon/
  • 2. http://www.newsweek.com/bizarre-amazon-rainforest-bird-species-discovered-be-extremely-rare-hybrid-758740
  • 3. http://www.pnas.org/content/115/2/E218.abstract