A new species of Heliodoxa hummingbird from Suriname

Between 2005 and 2010 the Yale Peabody Museum ornithologists have conducted several expeditions to the highlands of central Suriname, during which a series of hummingbird specimens originally assigned to the species Heliodoxa xanthogonys (the Velvet-browed Brilliant) were collected. These newly discovered populations, from the Tafelberg tepui and Wilhelmina Mountains, were not only isolated by more than 400 km from the nearest H. xanthogonys population in western Guyana but also exhibited some morphological differences. Michael Hanson, a graduate student in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, has compared mitochondrial and nuclear DNA sequences, along with morphological measurements between the Surinamese specimens and H. xanthogonys specimens collected in the Pantepui Highlands of northwestern Guyana and southern Venezuela. This research indicates that the specimens from Suriname represent a distinct evolutionary lineage that diverged approximately 200 thousand years ago from other populations of Velvet-browed Brilliant, and should be considered a distinct species. This species has remained isolated on a small mountain range that functions as an “island” of suitable highland forest habitat, surrounded by unsuitable lowland habitat. This project is a collaboration with Kristof Zyskowski and Richard Prum.