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Harpies lose diversity

In the tallest trees: out of two eggs, only one hatchling usually survives

JOÃO MARCOS ROSAIn the tallest trees: out of two eggs, only one hatchling usually survivesJOÃO MARCOS ROSA

One of the most exuberant inhabitants of the Amazon and Atlantic Forests, the harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja), has been losing genetic diversity as a consequence of forest reduction or fragmentation, which can lower the chances for survival and reproduction of individual birds (PLOS One, February 12, 2016). To arrive at these results, a team coordinated by Aureo Banhos at the Federal University of Espírito Santo (UFES), collaborating with experts from the Federal University of Amazonas and the National Institute for Research on the Amazon (INPA), took 72 samples of blood, tissues and feathers from harpy eagles taken from Brazilian forests and deposited in zoos, breeding facilities or museums from 1904 to 2008. They analyzed the DNA fragments known as microsatellites, through which an estimate of genetic variability and gene flow among populations can be obtained. The researchers propose urgent measures – such as protecting harpy nests and breeding couples, as well as preserving the forest areas in which they live – to prevent the disappearance of the biggest eagle in the tropics, which has a wing span of up to 2.5 meters.