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Contact: Kelly Mendez
California Academy of Sciences

Chatham Mockingbird with Avian Pox Lesions from the Collections of the California Academy of Science

Caption: In 2011, a team of international scientists studied specimens of Galapagos finches and mockingbirds from the collections of the California Academy of Sciences to trace the arrival and spread of avian pox in this biodiversity hotspot. The scientists pinpointed 1898 as the year the avipoxvirus, or avian pox, hit the Galapagos Islands and started infecting its birds. This estimation is vital to understanding avian diseases that affect today's Galapagos birds. 'Without museum collections, work like this would never be possible,' said Dr. Jack Dumbacher, Curator of Ornithology at the California Academy of Sciences. 'Because museum specimens include detailed collection date and location data, they can be used to study not only a particular species, but also historical events and environmental conditions. Without this library of specimens, we might never have learned when or how this potentially devastating disease made its way to Darwin's famous islands.'

Credit: California Academy of Sciences

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