Researchers have discovered a “once in a lifetime” rare songbird that has a body which is half male and the other half female. The discovery was found on September 24th, 2020, by researchers at Powdermill Nature Reserve, Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s environmental research center in Rector, PA.
What’s known as Gynandromorphy isn’t uncommon. A gynandromorph is an organism that contains both male and female characteristics. The term comes from the Greek (gynē), female, (anēr), male, and (morphē), form,
According to the Nature Reserve’s website noting the discover, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are sexually dimorphic, meaning that males and females have different plumage. This bird specifically has the male pink “wing pits,” breast spot, and black wing feathers on the right side and the female yellow wing pits and browner wing on the left side, Powdermill Nature Reserve wrote.
“The entire banding team was very excited to see such a rarity up close, and are riding the high of this once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Annie Lindsay, bird banding program manager at Powdermill. “One of them described it as ‘seeing a unicorn’ and another described the adrenaline rush of seeing something so remarkable. They all are incredibly grateful to be part of such a noteworthy and interesting banding record. Bilateral gynandromorphism, while very uncommon, is normal and provides an excellent example of a fascinating genetic process that few people ever encounter.”
The condition occurs in species of spiders, crustaceans, and even chickens. It’s the outcome of a genetic mistake when an unfertilized egg with two nuclei fuses with sperm, and produces an embryo with both male and female cells.
The reserve observed the bird during its normal bird “banding” operations. Banding refers to when birds are caught and then marked with an aluminum leg band with a nine-digit identification code before being released into the wild again. The bird was at least a year old, meaning that it was able to survive to adulthood with its condition.
The reserve noted, that the last time they found another was 15 years ago, and it’s only the fifth to be discovered out of the nearly 800,000 birds that the nature reserve has seen, CNN reported. In its 64 years of bird banding, Powdermill’s Avian Research Center has recorded fewer than 10 bilateral gynandromorphs.
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