Monday, January 7, 2013

Barcoding frees a bird

Bubo bubo (Credit Caroline Seidel)

About a year ago a Eurasian Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo) was brought to an animal shelter and breeding station specialised on birds of prey in the Sauerland in Germany. The animal was caught in the city of Duisburg as it seemed unusual tame and sought closeness to humans making it likely that it was brought up by humans as well. The Eurasian Eagle Owl is very rare in Germany as a result of habitat fragmentation and therefore strictly protected. Animals in the shelter are usually either prepared to be released into the wild or at least become part of a breeding program.

The owl in this case showed a very atypical feather coloration and Winfried Limpinsel the station lead suspected that the owl might belong to a sister species from Asia, Bubo bengalensis. In this case the owl wouldn’t have had a chance of being released into the wild as nobody wanted to contribute to the establishment of yet another alien species.

In order to determine the correct species identity of the owl small tissue samples of the quill were send to the Zoological State Collection in Munich. By using DNA Barcoding researchers there identified the owl as Bubo bubo.

This sounds very much like a Happy End for the bird because based on the results authorities and specialists are now looking into moving the animal into a release program. I would find it very nice to see one more of these majestic birds flying over my home country.

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