Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Dinosaurs did already hear the birds sing

24.08.2011
New study unravels early evolution of birds

Falcons are not birds of prey - at least phylogenetically - but are close relatives of parrots and passerine birds. The mutual ancestor of parrots and passerines was probably able to learn birdsong at the time when dinosaurs roamed our planet – some 30 million years earlier than had been assumed so far. This can be concluded from a new study carried out by a group of researchers at the University of Münster and settles some long-standing controversies regarding the early evolution of birds.


Parrots, here a Scarlet Macaw, are the closest relatives of passerine birds
photo: Kriegs/LWL

‘We have solved one of the most controversial parts of the genealogical tree of birds’, says Alexander Suh, Ph.D. student at the Centre for Molecular Biology of Inflammation (ZMBE) of the University of Münster. Together with his supervisors, group leader Dr. Jürgen Schmitz, Prof. Jürgen Brosius (both: ZMBE) as well as Dr. Jan Ole Kriegs of the Museum für Naturkunde des Landschaftsverbands Westfalen-Lippe (LWL), Suh has published these results in the August issue of the renowned scientific journal “Nature Communications”.

‘Passerines or perching birds - comprising more than half of all bird species, e.g., songbirds and tyrant flycatchers - can now be confidently placed within the avian tree of life’, explains Suh, who carries out research at the Institute of Experimental Pathology of the ZMBE. ‘Traditionally, passerines had been considered to be closely related to woodpeckers or cuckoos. Now, there is strong support that parrots are the closest living relatives of passerines.’

These findings imply interesting neurobiological consequences because parrots and most passerine birds are able to learn their vocalizations - a capability which is rather rare among other bird groups. Passerine birds such as the zebra finch or parrots such as the budgerigar are therefore important model organisms for studying how such learning processes work in the brain. The researchers conclude that due to the very close affinity of these two bird groups, vocal learning probably emerged in the mutual ancestor of passerine birds and parrots. Learned birdsong would then have evolved some 30 million years earlier than assumed all along – apparently before the extinction of dinosaurs.

Another conclusion of the study funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft is that falcons are the closest relatives of passerines and parrots, instead of being related to other birds of prey such as buzzards, eagles and vultures. Not only the above branches of the avian tree of life were studied using retroposons or “jumping genes”, but also most other events of early bird evolution, as early as approximately 100 million years ago in the late Mesozoic Era. This was possible because “jumping genes” remain recognizable as “molecular fossils” in the genome for millions of years. Such “contemporary witnesses” of evolution therefore serve as strong and clear-cut phylogenetic markers.

Reference:

Suh A. et al. (2011): Mesozoic retroposons reveal parrots as the closest living relatives of passerine birds. Nature Communications 2/Article number: 443, doi:10.1038/ncomms1448; http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ncomms1448

Contact: Dr. Thomas Bauer
Telefon: 0251 83-58937, E-Mail: thbauer@uni-muenster.de

Dr. Christina Heimken | Uni Münster
Further information:
http://www.uni-muenster.de

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Fine organic particles in the atmosphere are more often solid glass beads than liquid oil droplets
21.04.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Chemie

nachricht Study overturns seminal research about the developing nervous system
21.04.2017 | University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

Im Focus: Quantum-physical Model System

Computer-assisted methods aid Heidelberg physicists in reproducing experiment with ultracold atoms

Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...

Im Focus: Glacier bacteria’s contribution to carbon cycling

Glaciers might seem rather inhospitable environments. However, they are home to a diverse and vibrant microbial community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they play a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously thought.

A new study, now published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows how microbial communities in melting glaciers contribute to the Earth’s carbon cycle, a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New quantum liquid crystals may play role in future of computers

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A promising target for kidney fibrosis

21.04.2017 | Health and Medicine

Light rays from a supernova bent by the curvature of space-time around a galaxy

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>