Given the vast array of unique organisms inhabiting Earth's richly eclectic ecosystems, it would be fair to say that Nature thrives on diversity. But while that point is usually best expressed in a broad look at the planet's varied lifeforms, sometimes even a single member of a species still can turn heads by being wonderfully one-of-a-kind.
Recently, at Zealandia eco-sanctuary in New Zealand, biologists were surprised to discover that one of their newest animal arrivals seemed genetically predisposed to shunning those normally cut and dry distinctions of sexual dimorphism. Routine DNA testing on a young bellbird hatched there 18 months ago indicated that it was female, but as it grew things became clearly more complicated than that.
Instead of only growing the white feather pattern found in female bellbirds, this individual showed distinct signs of a male's dark plumage as well. Even the bird's behavior seemed indicative of male bird traits, such as in vocalizing in distinctively masculine calls and acting uncharacteristically territorial, leading biologists to declare the bird 'transgender'.
"We haven't seen anything like this before," conservation officer Erin Jeneway tells The Dominion Post.
Continue reading here