The Gems of Middle America

The well-named Mountaingems make up a complex genus of 6 to 8 montane Central American hummingbirds. They likely originated in northern Central America before the Isthmus of Panama formed, and then expanded to colonize the region’s mountainous cloud forest from Panama north to the Sky Islands of South-east Arizona and Big Bend. The climate-sensitive cloud…

The Toad-headed Agamids of the Tibetan Plateau

Toad-headed Agamids make up the diverse Phrynocephalus genus of about 40 species distributed across the arid regions of central Asia. Most Toad-headed Agamids lay eggs (oviparity), but 6 high-elevation species, largely restricted to the Tibetan plateau, give live birth (viviparity). Recent research suggests that the viviparous Phrynocephalus diverged from the oviparous species about 9.7 million…

Bachman’s Sparrow and the conservation of a dwindling American ecosystem

In the East Texas sea of uniform pine logging concessions and pastureland, Longleaf Pine savannas are immediately recognizable. They’re an open, ocherous forest whose haphazardly spaced trees give a desolate beauty. Dark grey-green tufts of needles sparsely decorate the canopy more than 90 feet above. The forest floor is almost entirely dry grassland accentuated by…