Two species of poisonous birds have been discovered in New Guinea

The species in question are the regent whistler (Pachycephala schlegelii) and the red-nucarated bellbird (Aleadryas rufinucha), the only known species of the genus Aleadryas

by Lorenzo Ciotti
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Two species of poisonous birds have been discovered in New Guinea

Two species of poisonous birds have been discovered in Papua New Guinea. The species in question are the regent whistler (Pachycephala schlegelii) and the red-nucarated bellbird (Aleadryas rufinucha), the only known species of the genus Aleadryas.

Both animals have a wide distribution throughout the Indo-Pacific region and possess an easily recognizable song. They were discovered by an international research team led by a group of scientists from the Natural History Museum of Denmark and the University of Copenhagen, in collaboration with the group of the Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology in Jena, Germany.

The initial intention was to study the birds that made up the local fauna, placing small traps in the thick of the forest. Once some fairly common specimens were captured, the regent whistler (Pachycephala schlegelii) and the red-necked whistler or red-necked bell ringer (Aleadryas rufinucha), the scientists realized an incredible detail: they are two species of poisonous birds, just like the pitoui black-headed (Pitohui dichrous), a specimen of a local bird already known to researchers.
It had been over two hundred years since a new species of poisonous bird had been discovered.

Biologists Knud Jønsson and Kasun Bodawatta said: 'We were really surprised to find that these birds are poisonous. The toxin is the same type as the one found in frogs. It is a neurotoxin which, by forcing sodium channels in tissue skeletal muscle to remain open, can cause violent convulsions and ultimately death." The two scholars realized the toxicity of the specimens because while they were near them they felt a strong burning in the nose and eyes.

"It's a bit like cutting onions!" ironically Kasun Bodawatta. The poison in question is the brachiotoxin, so called because it was initially discovered in some species of frogs in America. A simple touch of these animals is enough to cause the death of a human being.

It is no coincidence that one of these has been called an arrow frog, as the indigenous tribes use poison to impregnate the tips of their arrows. However these birds have a much lower level of toxicity than frogs.