A New Owl Species of the Genus Otus (Aves: Strigidae) from Lombok, Indon

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Subject: A New Owl Species of the Genus Otus (Aves: Strigidae) from Lombok, Indonesia
From: colin trainor <>
Date: Thu, 14 Feb 2013 08:03:29 +0930
New owl species, and interesting example of species discrimination based on owl 

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Rinjani scops owl: New owl species discovered in Indonesia

A new species of owl called the Rinjani scops owl has been discovered, and it’s 
unique to the tiny Indonesian island of Lombok.
Until fairly recently, it was common practice for scientists to 
identify owl species based largely on their plumage and morphology. Both
 features are important in distinguishing all kinds of birds, but can be
 unreliable, as owls often change their colouring to better blend in 
with their environment. The same species of spocs owl living in 
different geographic regions can have noticeably different plumage 
colours and patterns, which had led to what Smithsonian ornithologist 
Joe T Marshall referred to in 1978 as “several embarrassing misalignments”.

Marshall had been sent to Thailand in the late ‘70s to fix up some 
messy taxonomy of the island’s endemic owls, and it was here that he 
became the first researcher to propose that vocalistions were a more 
reliable identifier of scops owl species than variations in morphology 
and plumage. Using this new technique,  he went on to completely revise 
the classification of the scops owl genus Otus.
Since then, recordings of owl vocalisations have become a big part of
 identifying owl species, and this is how George Sangster from the 
Department of Vertebrate Zoology at the Swedish Museum of Natural 
History and Ben King from the Department of Zoology at Stockholm 
University discovered the Rinjani scops owl of Lombok, and named it 
after Indonesia’s second highest volcano, Gunung Rinjani.

A pure coincidence saw both Sanger and King travel to Lombok in 2003 
to record and study the vocalisations of a local population of nightjars
 to identify whether they belonged to a potentially new species that 
occurs on the neighbouring islands of Flores and Sumba, or to the large-tailed 
nightjar species (Caprimulgus macrurus)
 with which it had long been associated. It turns out this was a 
population of large-tailed nightjars, but while they were there, Sanger 
and King picked up on some owl vocalisations they had never heard 

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