Researchers uncover two new species of scrub jay

A study finds that two groups of scrub jays—one in Mexico and one in Texas—deserve status as independent species. According to the paper, appearing in Systematic Biology, genetic sequencing collected decades ago reveals evidence of two distinct new species in Aphelocoma, the scrub jay’s genus: A. sumichrasti, a “phenotypically, behaviorally, and genetically unique” endemic species of southern Mexico; and A. texana, “a Texas-endemic species of conservation concern.”

Determining that the Texas bird was a separate species was a bit of a challenge, said lead author Devon DeRaad, a doctoral student at the Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum at the University of Kansas. “We did as many analyses as we could think of to rigorously prove ourselves wrong, but everything indicates this population in Texas is totally distinct and evolving on its own isolated trajectory.”

Read more from the University of Kansas.

Header Image: A California scrub jay eyes the camera. Credit: Devon DeRaad