The Amazon Basin contains the greatest bird diversity on Earth, but how this diversity originated and is maintained is still unclear. Many young bird species in the Amazon, evidently reluctant to cross water, are separated from one another by the wide breadths of the Amazon River and its major tributaries. However, in the headwaters these rivers narrow such that they may not pose major barriers to birds. Headwater areas are natural laboratories for studying how young species differ and what happens when they interact. Unfortunately, the headwaters are poorly studied because they are difficult to access. Since 2006, I have conducted field work in Amazonian headwaters areas, especially the upper Ucayali River in central Peru. With collaborators, I have used the data from this field work to address questions about bird speciation, species maintenance, and the accumulation of diversity. Our results have resolved the details of boundaries between species ranges, revealed the existence of new hybrid zones, provided estimates of gene flow between incipient species, and resulted in the discovery and description of taxa new to science. This talk will provide a recap of both the field work and the scientific results from this research program.
Dr. Mike Harvey is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at UTEP and a Curator of Birds in the UTEP Biodiversity Collections. His lab studies bird diversity and evolution, particularly in the Neotropics and Borderland regions. He is also a lifelong birder and advocate for the appreciation and protection of the natural world.