Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Rapid bird evolution after the age of dinosaurs unprecedented, study confirms

12.12.2014

The most ambitious genetic study ever undertaken on bird evolution has found that almost all modern birds diversified after the dinosaurs became extinct 66 million years ago.

"The popular view until now has been that the extraordinary diversity of birds began during the dinosaur age but we found little support for this," said Associate Professor Simon Ho, from the University of Sydney who led a major component of the research looking at evolutionary timescale.


The Avian Phylogenomics Consortium's work over four years has brought together more than 200 scientists to better understand the evolution of birds.

Credit: Jon Fjelds

An international collaboration of scientists worked for four years to sequence, assemble and compare the full genomes of 48 bird species representing all major branches of modern birds. It is the largest whole genomic study across a single vertebrate class ever undertaken.

Their results appear in a special edition of Science on 12 December (with simultaneous publications of related articles in other high profile journals).

Associate Professor Ho, from the University's School of Biological Sciences, is an author on a Science paper and two articles in GigaScience. He contributed his expertise in using a technique known as 'molecular clock' analysis to estimate birds' evolutionary timescales, using genome data and fossil evidence.

His research helped confirm that some of the first lineages of modern birds appeared about 100 million years ago but that almost all of the modern groups of birds diversified in a small window of less than 10 million years, just after the dinosaurs were wiped out by an asteroid.

"Our team had to develop a range of new methods to handle the largest bird data set ever assembled. These required the equivalent of more than 400 years of computing power across nine supercomputers," said Associate Professor Ho.

"The team was able to work out the relationships among the major groups of modern birds, showing that our previous understanding of birds had been clouded by the appearance of similar traits and habits in distantly related groups.

"So while grebes and cormorants are both waterbirds with webbed feet that dive to catch their prey they are, despite these similarities, from completely distinct lineages."

Another significant finding is that the ancestor of most of the land birds we see today is probably an apex predator that gave rise to raptors, eagles, owls and falcons in rapid succession before leading to land birds such as songbirds and woodpeckers.

"With the demise of the dinosaurs, birds and mammals were able to become more diverse and to occupy all of the niches that had previously been dominated by dinosaurs," said Associate Professor Simon Ho.

"This was one of the most significant episodes in the history of life on earth and it is tremendously exciting that this major scientific international effort has made these advances in our understanding," said Associate Professor Simon Ho.

Professor Eddie Holmes from the University of Sydney's School of Biological Sciences and Associate Professor Jaime Gongora and his research team from the Faculty of Veterinary Science also contributed to the international project and are authors on papers in Science and accompanying journals.

Verity Leatherdale | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://sydney.edu.au

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht The Great Unknown: Risk-Taking Behavior in Adolescents
19.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht A sudden drop in outdoor temperature increases the risk of respiratory infections
11.01.2017 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New Study Will Help Find the Best Locations for Thermal Power Stations in Iceland

19.01.2017 | Earth Sciences

Not of Divided Mind

19.01.2017 | Life Sciences

Molecule flash mob

19.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>