If you’ve never heard of a gynandromorph before, don’t feel too bad. The half male, half female creature is extremely rare.
Included in the species that can be a gynandromorph is the Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Like other birds, there are males and females. The males have a pink “wing pit” and black feathers. Females, however, have yellow and brown plumage. According to Science News, Annie Linsay, a branding program manager at Powdermill Nature Reserve, found that they had one of these Rose-breasted Grosbeaks that fit into that category.
Lindsay was out branding birds with ID tags with her colleagues on September 24 at the Powdermill Nature Reserve in Rector. The bird was spotted by one of her teammates and she was informed of it. Lindsay was curious, so she came over and determined that it was a gynandromorph.
“It was spectacular. This bird is in its nonbreeding [plumage], so in the spring when it’s in its breeding plumage, it’s going to be even more starkly male, female,” Lindsay said, reported Science News. The bird’s colors will become even more vibrant, and “the line between the male and female side will be even more obvious.”
She talked about how exciting it was to see such a bird up close. It was described as being an experience like seeing a unicorn!
According to a press release from the Powdermill Avian Research Center, “A popular question in scientific circles is whether this bird has the capability to breed. Since usually only the left ovary is functional in birds, and the left side of this bird is the female side, this bird theoretically could produce young if it successfully mates with a male.”
These birds are rare, although the news outlet did indicate that Linsay had the opportunity to see one about 15 years ago. A number of species of birds, insects, and crustaceans can be gynandromorphs. Scientists don’t fully understand how it occurs, but they feel that the egg may develop male sex chromosomes on one side and female sex chromosomes on the other. It happens during fertilization and in the end, the bird will be born with testes on one half of the body and ovaries on the other.
Some people may consider these to be hermaphrodites, which also have the genitals of both sexes but there are differences. In a gynandromorph, the male characteristics are found on one side of the body and the female characteristics are found on the other.
Another question that you see biologists have is how they reproduce. Additional studies need to be done before they find out if one sex is dominant compared to the other, according to Arthur Arnold, UCLA biologist.
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