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Western Ghat birds face climate change heat.

A GROUP of Bangalore scientists has come up with fresh evidence to show how long- term changes in climate affect species and biodiversity.

Their study of a small bird called the White- bellied Shortwing, found in the Western Ghats, reveals that changes in climate caused a different species to emerge from the original one. Just that the changes spanned millennia -- not the past century in which human interventions caused global warming.

The study focused on mountaintop forests called " sky- islands" that harbour highly specialised species not found in lowland forests. The Western Ghats are a biodiversity hotspot.

" High- elevation species are strongly affected by climatic change; as it gets warmer, species move higher up on mountains," explains V. V. Robin, a doctoral candidate at the National Institute of Advanced Studies ( NIAS).

The genetic study conducted by Robin, his guide Anindya Sinha of NIAS and Dr Uma Ramakrishnan of the National Centre for Biological Sciences ( NCBS) examined how the species got to these ' islands' and their relation with populations on different such spots.

The genetic data found that the major geographical gaps in the Western Ghats -- the Palghat Gap and the Shencottah Gap ( spots of today's rail and road links) -- also caused a break in the populations of the species. Populations across the Palghat Gap separated five million years ago, and the Nilgiris and Anamalai hills, to the north and south of the gap, harbour two different species of the Whitebellied Shortwing.

Across the smaller Shencottah Gap, populations separated about two million years ago. The researchers also propose, based on evidence from the study, that the single species of White- bellied Shortwing should now be split into two different species -- White- bellied Shortwing and Rufous- bellied Shortwing on either side of the Palghat Gap. These were the names used earlier by the legendary Indian ornithologist, Salim Ali.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Oct 19, 2010
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