POSTPONED: What’s so special about New Guinea birds?

Date:
Venue:
The Linnean Society of London, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, W1J 0BF, United Kingdom
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Organiser: events@linnean.org
02074344479 ext 211
Registration: Closed

SPECIAL EVENT 18:00–19:00 Friday 5 June 2020

Unfortunately due to the recent coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the decision has been made to postpone this event to later in the year. We apologies for any inconvenience. Please keep an eye on our website for further updates.

The British Ornithologists’ Club will this year hold its 1000th meeting since its inauguration on 5 October 1892. In celebration of this significant milestone this will be the first of two evening talks held in conjunction with the club.

The tropical island of New Guinea has for a long time played a preeminent role in ornithology, which caused it to be chosen as the site for the BOU’s Jubilee Expedition in 1909. Part of the reason is New Guinea’s many species of extraordinary birds, such as its birds of paradise, whose male ornamental plumages carry sexual selection to extremes; its bowerbirds, whose males build the most elaborate display structures among animals; its megapodes, the only birds that incubate their eggs by natural heat sources rather than by body heat; its diversity of parrots and kingfishers, orders that probably evolved in New Guinea; its Greater Melampitta, the only passerine known to roost underground; and its many bird groups convergent on but unrelated to the nuthatches, creepers, warblers, finches, wrens, and sunbirds of the rest of the world. Another reason is New Guinea’s equatorial location combined with its high mountains, resulting in a range of habitats from tropical rainforest in the lowlands to glaciers on the highest peaks at 5000 m. Still another reason is its simple geographic layout: a single central cordillera with montane allospecies arranged from west to east, separating northern and southern lowlands with lowland allospecies arranged in a ring. New Guinea shouldn’t be thought of as the world’s largest tropical island, but instead as the smallest continent. New Guinea has proved to be ideal terrain for studying speciation, ecological segregation, and other biological phenomena. New Guineans themselves are walking encyclopedias of knowledge about their birds. The illustrated talk will explain these and other features that make New Guinea birds special. The only disadvantage to visiting New Guinea is that, thereafter, you’ll find the rest of the world boring by comparison.

Jared Diamond is a Pulitzer-prize-winning author of five best-selling books, translated into 38 languages, about human societies and human evolution: Guns, Germs, and Steel, Collapse, Why Is Sex Fun?, The Third Chimpanzee, and The World until Yesterday. As a professor of geography at UCLA (University of California at Los Angeles), he is known for his breadth of interests, which involves conducting research and teaching in three other fields: the biology of New Guinea birds, digestive physiology, and conservation biology. His prizes and honors include the U.S. National Medal of Science, the Pulitzer Prize for Non-fiction, the Tyler Prize for Environmental Science, and election to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. He is a director of World Wildlife Fund/U.S. and of Conservation International. As a biological explorer, his most widely publicized finding was his rediscovery, at the top of New Guinea’s remote Foja Mountains, of the long-lost Golden-fronted Bowerbird, previously known only from four specimens found in a Paris feather shop in 1895.

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  • This event is free and open to all.
  • Registration is essential. Seats will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Doors will open at 17:30. Please note that the meeting room will open at 17:45, 15 minutes prior to the start of the talk.
  • Tea will be served in the Library from 17:30 and the event will be followed by a white wine reception.

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