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 Topologische Quantenchemie
21.07.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Chemische Physik fester Stoffe

nachricht Topological Quantum Chemistry
21.07.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Chemische Physik fester Stoffe

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

Im Focus: On the way to a biological alternative

A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes

The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....

Im Focus: The 1 trillion tonne iceberg

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through

A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...

Im Focus: Laser-cooled ions contribute to better understanding of friction

Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision

Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA looks to solar eclipse to help understand Earth's energy system

21.07.2017 | Earth Sciences

Stanford researchers develop a new type of soft, growing robot

21.07.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Vortex photons from electrons in circular motion

21.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>