Charles Darwin studied the finches of the Galapagos Islands for his theory of evolution by natural selection and today the finches are in danger of becoming extinct. Darwin put the finches on the map, making them a famous species as these small birds were of great interest to him while developing his theory.
According to the Christian Science Monitor on December 19, the finches are victims of a parasitic fly that wasn’t around in Darwin’s day. This parasite appeared on the island just a few decades ago and they have put the finch population in danger.
There is a safeguard against this, reports parasitologist Dale Clayton from the University of Utah. He said that a 40 percent reduction of the fly-infested nests will save the finches from extinction.
The risk of the finch population disappearing works on paper via a mathematical equation that was created by Clayton and his colleagues. Talking the most common finch out of the 14 species on the island and entering five years of data collected on this species into this equation, the group calculated the extinction risk of the birds.
The Daily Mail reports that the calculations made by the scientist suggests the finch population could be wiped out in just 15 years. The findings of their calculations were reported in a paper published Friday in the Journal of applied Ecology online. The baby finch cannot live in an infested nest because they die within a week, said Clayton, who highlighted just how nasty this parasitic fly really is.
One way to do away with the flies is to introduce its predator into the mix, the parasitoid wasp. Introducing a parasite to the island is tricky business, as they need to be host-specific.
Clayton said that the last thing the island would need is a parasite killing another insect that works in the ecology system. He did say that this wasp is usually “very host-specific.”
Another suggestion sounds interesting and that is to let the birds fumigate the nests themselves. Clayton’s research shows this is a possibility. Cotton balls dipped in an insecticide, which is safe for the birds, were left near the finch nests and they were soon used by the birds to line the inside of their nests. Apparently finches like soft linings!
Clayton did say that the numbers derived from the mathematical model may not be precise, but however they embark on ridding the flies will end up being time consuming and somewhat of a tasking job. Even if his numbers are off a bit, the finch is still in trouble of becoming extinct as these parasitic flies are killing the baby birds.