Extinct Species of Scops Owl Discovered in Madeira

Posted on March 23, 2012

Otus Mauli Scops Owl

Scientists have discovered the fossil remains of a new type of scops owl, the first extinct bird on the archipelago of Madeira,a Portuguese archipelago. Otus mauli, which was also the first nocturnal bird of prey described in the area, lived on land and became extinct as a result of humans arriving on the island. The owl ate invertebrates and "occasionally lizards or birds."

The fossil remains were first discovered twenty years ago by German researcher Harald Pieper. These remains had not been studied in depth until now.

Josep Antoni Alcover, one of the authors of the study and researcher at the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies (IMEDEA), says, "It has long legs and wings slightly shorter than the continental European scops owl from which it derives."

The same or a similar species has been investigated in Porto Santo, another island of the archipelago of Madeira. The homogeneity of the scops owls' measurements on the two islands, as well as the differences compared to European scops owls, suggests that they were genetically isolated from the European populations. On this island the researchers say they expect to discover new species of birds in the near future "which will report a world that disappeared just a few hundred years ago,"

The research was published in the journal, Zootaxa.

Image: Pau Oliver

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