Science

Incredibly rare bird is male on one side and female on the other

PHOTO CREDITS: ANNIE LINDSAY/SCIENCE NEWS

According to ScienceNews, researchers at Powdermill Nature Reserve in Rector, Pennsylvania spotted a rose-breasted grosbeak that is half red and black and half yellow and brown. The bird’s right side, having the distinctive red markings, is male, and its left side, having the yellow and brown hues, is female. 

On September 24, Annie Lindsay and her team at the nature preserve were capturing and banding birds with identification tags when one of her colleagues radioed Lindsay with the incredible discovery. Lindsay immediately knew what they had found; a half-male, half-female animal known as a gynandromorph. Unlike hermaphrodites, which also have genitals of both sexes, gynandromorphs are completely male on one side and completely female on the other.

“It was spectacular. This bird is in its nonbreeding [plumage], so in the spring when it’s in its breeding plumage, it’s going to be even more starkly male, female,” Lindsay says. The bird’s colors will become even more vibrant, and “the line between the male and female side will be even more obvious” (Forbes). These birds are incredibly rare. In 64 years, Powdermill’s Avian Research Center has recorded fewer than 10 gynandromorphs. Lindsay says she has only ever seen one, less striking, gynandromorphic bird 15 years ago.

There are many species of birds, insects, and crustaceans in which gynandromorphs are found. This bird is likely the result of a sperm fertilizing an egg that has 2 nuclei instead of one. Then the egg can develop female sex chromosomes on one half and male on the other. Leading to a bird that has both reproductive organs. Scientists are unsure if gynandromorphs can reproduce and whether they act more like males or females. Scientists are continuing to research the rare type of animal. 

ARTICLE: JOSEPH MODICA

SCIENCE/HEALTH: KYLE SMITH

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