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!
How to become a T follicular helper cell
31.07.2015 | La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology
Heating and cooling with light leads to ultrafast DNA diagnostics
31.07.2015 | University of California - Berkeley
Using ultracold atoms trapped in light crystals, scientists from the MPQ, LMU, and the Weizmann Institute observe a novel state of matter that never thermalizes.
What happens if one mixes cold and hot water? After some initial dynamics, one is left with lukewarm water—the system has thermalized to a new thermal...
Physicists from Regensburg and Marburg, Germany have succeeded in taking a slow-motion movie of speeding electrons in a solid driven by a strong light wave. In the process, they have unraveled a novel quantum phenomenon, which will be reported in the forthcoming edition of Nature.
The advent of ever faster electronics featuring clock rates up to the multiple-gigahertz range has revolutionized our day-to-day life. Researchers and...
Researchers have developed an ultrafast light-emitting device that can flip on and off 90 billion times a second and could form the basis of optical computing.
Joint BioEnergy Institute study identifies bacterial protein that is key to protecting rice against bacterial blight
A bacterial signal that when recognized by rice plants enables the plants to resist a devastating blight disease has been identified by a multi-national team...
Researchers in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin are one step closer to delivering smart windows with a new level of energy efficiency, engineering materials that allow windows to reveal light without transferring heat and, conversely, to block light while allowing heat transmission, as described in two new research papers.
By allowing indoor occupants to more precisely control the energy and sunlight passing through a window, the new materials could significantly reduce costs for...
23.07.2015 | Event News
10.07.2015 | Event News
25.06.2015 | Event News
31.07.2015 | Trade Fair News
31.07.2015 | Transportation and Logistics
31.07.2015 | Physics and Astronomy