Field of Science

Name the Bug # 35

I promise I'll get the answer to this one up faster than last time:

And for the record, I'm interested in the animal on the left.

Attribution, as always, to follow.

Update: Identity now available here. Photo from here.


  1. Wouldn't you know it? A member of Dinosauria, the clade I'm supposed to specialise on professionally and I can't figure it out. Its a passerine bird (looks kinda thrush-like to me) and its probably from one of the subantarctic islands given the label left in the corner of the image. I found the flickr photostream from which it came but couldn't find the image. Googling around got me no-where. The south Georgia pipit is about the only subantarctic passerine I could find but it the mystery bird is way too dark to be one of those. I've lost my winning streak :-(

  2. Aha, got it! Its the Tristan Thrush, endemic to the Tristan Group of Islands of the South Atlantic. Used to be placed in a monotypic genus Nesocichla because of its distinctive brush-tipped tongue but molecular studies show that is deeply nested withn South American thrushes so should be part of the genus Turdus (as T. eremita). Scavenging is part of its normal behaviour/diet.

  3. Now that the bird's correct identity has been revealed, the cruel game of one-upmanship can begin.

    "Scavenging is part of its normal behaviour/diet."

    Scavenging of vertebrate carcasses is not, of course, typical behaviour of most thrush species. The Tristan thrush seems to have followed one of the two typical evolutionary paths of island-living land birds: that of becoming a generalist (the other path, of course, is that of becoming an extreme specialist à la the various species of Hawaiian honeycreepers and Darwin's finches, respectively). When both competitors and food sources are relatively scarce, as they often are on islands - and on non-tropical islands in particular - it makes sense to expand into ecological niches that would be occupied by wholly other kinds of species on the mainland.

    Incidentally, the Tristan thrush would also seem to demonstrate another common tendency of island-living land birds: that of being more drab-coloured than their mainland relatives.

  4. From the IUCN redlist it is classed as Near Threatened as a result of its tiny range, but few specific threats otherwise. There are apparently three subspecies, each restricted to a single island in the Tristan de Cunha group, witha total population most recently estimated at around 6,000 birds.

  5. They are known to like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Chilean Wines, and Spanish Operas.

    They usually vote for conservatives as befits their scavenger life style choices. This is unusual for passeriforms which usually are moderate.

    (o.k. so I feel left out by all of these cenozoics)

  6. Three points to Dartian, two to Adam, one to Alan. Which means that, with ten points total, Adam Yates is the first Name the Bug champion! Get in touch with me, Adam, to claim your (spectacularly underwhelming) prize of a guest post on this site, or a post written by me on the subject of your choice. (I'm sorry, I don't have any really cool stuff to give away.) Everyone else, thanks very much for competing, and the best of luck in future rounds.


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