Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Complete ‘family tree’ of all British birds gives clues about which species might be endangered next

11.06.2008
A new complete evolutionary ‘family tree’ showing how all British bird species are related to each other may provide clues about which ones are at risk of population decline, according to new research published today (11 June) in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

Comparing the new family tree with existing lists of endangered bird species, author Dr Gavin Thomas from the NERC Centre for Population Biology at Imperial College London found that British birds currently suffering population decline were clustered close together on the same branches of the family tree.

Because of this the family tree, or ‘phylogeny’, could be used to predict which species are at risk of decline in the future. Bird species which are not experiencing decline at the moment, but which sit close to species that are declining on the family tree, may be at risk next. This is because closely related species on the family tree share physical traits. Some of these traits such as low reproductive rates or specific habitat requirements may render them less able to cope with climate change or depletion of their habitat and make them exceptionally vulnerable to decline.

Declining population numbers is one of the main criteria used by scientists to assess which species are of high conservation concern. Another important way of measuring conservation concerns is assessing whether the geographical area inhabited by a species is decreasing – a condition known as ‘range contraction’. This study showed no link between closeness on the family tree and incidence of range contraction, so scientists will need to use additional information to create a full picture of which birds have conservation needs in the UK.

Dr Thomas explains, however, that the family tree could be used to provide vital clues to which species need to be protected from population decline:

“This study threw up some interesting results,” he said. “Numbers of the common blackbird are currently not perceived as threatened at all, however it has several close relatives, including the song thrush, that are experiencing severe levels of population decline. This could mean that populations of blackbirds in the UK are at risk of declining in the future.”

Dr Thomas suggests that the family tree can be an early warning for conservationists, because if species close to those on the phylogeny that are already endangered share traits with the endangered species, they too may be at risk of decline in the future.

Dr Thomas concludes: “Pulling together the family tree was an important task as we now have a clearer insight than ever before into the evolutionary relationships of birds in Britain. The data clearly shows a link between closely related birds and chances of population decline which could be useful for conservationists, although they will always need to take other factors, such as range contraction, into account.”

The family tree, or ‘phylogeny’, covers over 93% of British birds. Examples of birds which may be at risk of population decline in the future, based on their close relationship to other endangered birds include:

•The greenfinch – not currently endangered but closely related to the linnet and bullfinch which are currently experiencing severe levels of decline

•The ptarmigan – not currently endangered but closely related to the black grouse and grey partridge which are currently experiencing severe levels of decline

The research was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council.

Danielle Reeves | alfa
Further information:
http://www.nerc.ac.uk

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht How does the loss of species alter ecosystems?
18.05.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

nachricht Excess diesel emissions bring global health & environmental impacts
16.05.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

First Juno science results supported by University of Leicester's Jupiter 'forecast'

26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>