Article in the scientific journal NATURE describes the relevance of ecological niches to the evolution of new bird species
The Eastern Himalayas are home to more than 360 different songbird species, most of which are to be found nowhere else on the planet.
This makes the region extending from eastern Nepal to the borderlands of China, India, and Myanmar unique and one of the most important hot spots for biological diversity in the western hemisphere. A recent research paper describes how this impressive bird community came about millions of years ago, emphasizing both the uniqueness and biological significance of this remote area. "As the Himalayan mountain range was formed, a profusion of completely different ecological niches were created," explains Professor Jochen Martens of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU). "A wide variety of different songbird species were able to colonize these niches. The majority of these species did not evolve there but emigrated from the eastern and south-eastern regions of the Himalayas."
Martens has been conducting research in the Himalayas for 45 years and is the co-author of the article "Niche filling slows the diversification of Himalayan songbirds" published in the eminent scientific journal Nature.
The team of researchers from India, the US, Germany, and Sweden was able to sample and analyze the DNA of all songbirds found in the Himalayas. Team members such as Martens compiled some of the genetic material over the course of decades; some was found in old collections in European and North American museums or was taken from individual feathers collected by field workers.
The scientists were surprised at the relatively large differences in the genetic makeup even between species which are apparently closely related and that often have an extremely similar appearance. On average, each bird species separated from their closest relative six to seven million years ago. The time is roughly equivalent to the period separating human beings from chimpanzees, the animal most closely related to humans.
Over the past million years, new bird species have evolved such as those found in Southeast Asia, China, and Siberia. However, almost none of these have emigrated to the Eastern Himalayas. The team of researchers headed by Professor Trevor Price of the University of Chicago and Dhananjai Mohan of the Indian Forest Service believe that emigration has not taken place because of the difficulty of integration into the already tightly packed bird communities of the Eastern Himalayas.
"The capacity for new species to evolve appears to depend to a large extent on whether enough room for colonization is available," explains Martens. The Eastern Himalayas offered unique conditions for the development of an enormous diversity of songbird species. The research team concluded that the habitats have since been saturated so that barely any new niches were available for new species.
The findings from the DNA analyses essentially confirm those made by Martens after his many years spent examining bird songs. The various types of song show how acoustic properties, usually in the form of dialects, contribute to species evolution and how the individual species are distributed in an area with extreme elevation stratification, such as the Himalayas. Over the years, Martens has recorded more than 10,000 individual sounds from numerous species for his research, which he compiled in Europe and many parts of Asia.
Martens and his international research colleagues agree that the Eastern Himalayas on the borderlands of India, China, and Myanmar is an area of unique genetic diversity with regard to birds. They hope that their findings on songbirds will help stimulate research into other groups of animals, such as reptiles and mammals, in this impressive location. "It will only be possible to protect this natural heritage once it has been researched as thoroughly as possible," adds Martens.
The Himalaya golden-spectacled warbler lives in the Eastern Himalayas. There are several closely related species of the same genus in Central and South China. They can be distinguished by their vocalizations and genetic makeup.
photo/©: Jochen Martens, JGU
The Himalaya golden-spectacled warbler (Seicercus burkii)
photo/©: Jochen Martens, JGU
Trevor D. Price et al.
Niche filling slows the diversification of Himalayan songbirds
Nature, 30 April 2014
Professor em. Dr. Jochen Martens
Institute of Zoology
Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU)
D 55099 Mainz, GERMANY
phone +49 6131 39-22675 or 39-22586
http://www.uni-mainz.de/presse/17326_ENG_HTML.php - press release ;
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature13272.html - publication
Petra Giegerich | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Stick insects produce bacterial enzymes themselves
31.05.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für chemische Ökologie
New Model of T Cell Activation
27.05.2016 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
Physicists of the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics and the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich in collaboration with scientists from the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg have observed a light-matter phenomenon in nano-optics, which lasts only attoseconds.
The interaction between light and matter is of key importance in nature, the most prominent example being photosynthesis. Light-matter interactions have also...
A biological and energy-efficient process, developed and patented by the University of Innsbruck, converts nitrogen compounds in wastewater treatment facilities into harmless atmospheric nitrogen gas. This innovative technology is now being refined and marketed jointly with the United States’ DC Water and Sewer Authority (DC Water). The largest DEMON®-system in a wastewater treatment plant is currently being built in Washington, DC.
The DEMON®-system was developed and patented by the University of Innsbruck 11 years ago. Today this successful technology has been implemented in about 70...
Permanent magnets are very important for technologies of the future like electromobility and renewable energy, and rare earth elements (REE) are necessary for their manufacture. The Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials IWM in Freiburg, Germany, has now succeeded in identifying promising approaches and materials for new permanent magnets through use of an in-house simulation process based on high-throughput screening (HTS). The team was able to improve magnetic properties this way and at the same time replaced REE with elements that are less expensive and readily available. The results were published in the online technical journal “Scientific Reports”.
The starting point for IWM researchers Wolfgang Körner, Georg Krugel, and Christian Elsässer was a neodymium-iron-nitrogen compound based on a type of...
In the Beyond EUV project, the Fraunhofer Institutes for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen and for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF in Jena are developing key technologies for the manufacture of a new generation of microchips using EUV radiation at a wavelength of 6.7 nm. The resulting structures are barely thicker than single atoms, and they make it possible to produce extremely integrated circuits for such items as wearables or mind-controlled prosthetic limbs.
In 1965 Gordon Moore formulated the law that came to be named after him, which states that the complexity of integrated circuits doubles every one to two...
Characterization of high-quality material reveals important details relevant to next generation nanoelectronic devices
Quantum mechanics is the field of physics governing the behavior of things on atomic scales, where things work very differently from our everyday world.
24.05.2016 | Event News
20.05.2016 | Event News
19.05.2016 | Event News
31.05.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering
31.05.2016 | Life Sciences
31.05.2016 | Information Technology