A team of international scientists, including a trio from Simon Fraser University, has published the world’s first ranking of evolutionary distinct birds under threat of extinction. These include a cave-dwelling bird that is so oily it can be used as a lamp and a bird that has claws on its wings and a stomach like a cow.
The research, published today in Current Biology, the shows that Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand all score high on responsibility for preserving irreplaceable species. The researchers examined nearly 10,000 bird species and identified more than 100 areas where additional protection efforts would help safeguard avian biodiversity.
“We used genetic data to identify the bird species that have the fewest relatives on the ‘Tree of Life’, that is, which species score highest on the ‘evolutionary distinctness’ index,” explains SFU biologist Arne Mooers, one of the six authors of a study that was seven years in the making.
The index was created by former SFU PhD student Dave Redding, another of the trio, and was applied to an updated version of the first global tree of birds, published in 2012 by the group in Nature.
The researchers, led by Mooers and Walter Jetz at Yale University, combined the index with data on extinction risk and maps of where every bird in the world lives. The result is a snapshot of how the entire Tree of Life of birds is distributed on the planet, and where on earth the tree is most at risk of being lost.
“Given that we cannot save all species from extinction, these distinct species are of special conservation concern, since they are truly irreplaceable - they have no close relatives that share their DNA,” Mooers says.
Jeff Joy, another SFU team member, adds: "Many of these distinct species are also incredibly cool–the number-one bird lives in caves and is so oily you can use it as a lamp, the number three-bird has claws on its wings and a stomach like a cow, while still another, the Abbott’s Booby, breeds only on Christmas Island.”
Mapping where distinct species are on the planet also gives insight into which areas and countries steward disproportionate amounts of bird evolution. The data also offer some insight into large-scale processes affecting biodiversity, Mooers says.
“We also found that if we prioritize threatened birds by their distinctness, we actually preserve very close to the maximum possible amount of evolution,” says Mooers. “This means our method can identify those species we cannot afford to lose and it can be used to preserve the information content represented by all species into the future. Both are major goals for conservation biology.”
The new rankings will be used in a major conservation initiative called the Edge of Existence program at the London Zoo. The zoo has already identified several species like the huge monkey-eating Philippine eagle that are at once distinct, endangered, and suffer from lack of attention.
Funding came from several sources, including NSERC, NERC, NSF, NASA, and the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies.
Simon Fraser University is consistently ranked among Canada's top comprehensive universities and is one of the top 50 universities in the world under 50 years old. With campuses in Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey, B.C., SFU engages actively with the community in its research and teaching, delivers almost 150 programs to more than 30,000 students, and has more than 125,000 alumni in 130 countries.
Simon Fraser University: Engaging Students. Engaging Research. Engaging Communities.
Arne Mooers | Eurek Alert!
Two decades of training students and experts in tracking infectious disease
27.11.2015 | Hochschule für Angewandte Wissenschaften Hamburg
Increased carbon dioxide enhances plankton growth, opposite of what was expected
27.11.2015 | Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences
Planet Earth experienced a global climate shift in the late 1980s on an unprecedented scale, fuelled by anthropogenic warming and a volcanic eruption, according to new research published this week.
Scientists say that a major step change, or ‘regime shift’, in the Earth’s biophysical systems, from the upper atmosphere to the depths of the ocean and from...
The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE has installed 70 photovoltaic modules on the outer façade of one of its lab buildings. The modules were...
Nerve cells cover their high energy demand with glucose and lactate. Scientists of the University of Zurich now provide new support for this. They show for the first time in the intact mouse brain evidence for an exchange of lactate between different brain cells. With this study they were able to confirm a 20-year old hypothesis.
In comparison to other organs, the human brain has the highest energy requirements. The supply of energy for nerve cells and the particular role of lactic acid...
In laser material processing, the simulation of processes has made great strides over the past few years. Today, the software can predict relatively well what will happen on the workpiece. Unfortunately, it is also highly complex and requires a lot of computing time. Thanks to clever simplification, experts from Fraunhofer ILT are now able to offer the first-ever simulation software that calculates processes in real time and also runs on tablet computers and smartphones. The fast software enables users to do without expensive experiments and to find optimum process parameters even more effectively.
Before now, the reliable simulation of laser processes was a job for experts. Armed with sophisticated software packages and after many hours on computer...
Researchers at Heidelberg University have devised a new way to study the phenomenon of magnetism. Using ultracold atoms at near absolute zero, they prepared a...
25.11.2015 | Event News
17.11.2015 | Event News
21.10.2015 | Event News
27.11.2015 | Press release
27.11.2015 | Life Sciences
27.11.2015 | Materials Sciences