Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers describe first-ever hybrid bird species from the Amazon

29.12.2017

A closer look at genetics and feathers reveals first-ever hybrid bird species living in the Amazon rainforest

A team of U of T Scarborough researchers have described the first known hybrid bird species to be found in the Amazon rainforest.


The male golden-crowned manakin has evolved yellow feathers, likely as a way to attract potential female mates.

Credit: University of Toronto Scarborough

Through a series of genetic and other tests the team have revealed that the golden-crowned manakin - first discovered in Brazil in 1957 but not seen again until 2002 - is in fact a hybrid species.

"While hybrid plant species are very common, hybrid species among vertebrates are exceedingly rare," says Associate Professor Jason Weir, senior author of the research.

A hybrid species forms when two parental species mate to produce a hybrid population, which then stops being able to freely interbreed with the parental species. In this case the two parents are the snow-capped manakin, named for its bright snowy-white crown feathers, and the opal-crowned manakin, named for its brilliant iridescent crown feathers.

Weir and his team, which included lead author and former graduate student Alfredo Barrera-Guzman, gathered genetic and feather samples over two separate field trips to Brazil. They were then able to sequence a large portion of the golden-crowned manakin's genome including 16,000 different genetic markers, finding that about 20 per cent of its genome came from the snowy-crowned, and about 80 per cent came from the opal-crowned.

The researchers also used something called coalescent modelling to figure out at what point the golden-crowned split off from its parental species. They determined it was around 180,000 years ago when the two parental species originally mated, and that both parental species diverged from a common ancestor about 300,000 years ago, making all three very recent birds by Amazon rainforest standards.

"Most Amazon bird species diverged from their most recent relative around 1.5 to 4 million years ago, so these are all young birds by comparison" says Weir, an expert on the biodiversity of New World birds.

The male golden-crowned has unique yellow crown feathers that are much duller than its parental species. To learn more about this unusual characteristic, the researchers took a closer look at the keratin structure of the crown feathers of all three bird species using an electron microscope. The two parent species each have very different structural arrangements of the keratin, which is responsible for creating the highly reflective colours that help males show-off to females in the dark rainforest interior. In the case of the golden-crowned, they discovered it had a mix of keratin structures from both parental species.

"The golden-crowned manakin ended up with an intermediate keratin structure that does a poor job of making either the brilliant white or the reflective iridescence of the parental species," says Weir.

The golden-crowned manakin likely had duller white or grey feathers early on in its existence as a result of its keratin structure, but eventually evolved yellow feathers as an alternative way to attract females. The end result is a uniquely coloured species.

The golden-crowned manakin lives in an area of the south-central Amazon Rainforest that is approximately 200 sq. km and is largely separated from areas where snow-capped and opal-crowned live by wide rivers that the birds are reluctant to cross. As Weir points out, it likely owes its survival as a species on being geographically isolated from its parental species at some point during a past ice age when rainforest coverage contracted, and wide rivers formed natural barriers.

"Without geographic isolation, it's very likely this would never have happened because you don't see the hybrids evolving as separate species in other areas where both parental species meet."

There are some potential candidates of hybrid species in nature, like the red wolf of eastern North America, possibly a hybrid between the coyote and grey wolf. And while hybrids of two species do occur in nature, as Weir notes in most cases they won't develop unique characteristics to become its own separate species.

"This is what makes the golden-crowned manakin such a novel animal," he says.

###

The research, which will be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS), received funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

Media Contact

Don Campbell
dcampbell@utsc.utoronto.ca
905-424-8894

 @UofTNews

http://www.utoronto.ca 

Don Campbell | EurekAlert!

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht How molecules teeter in a laser field
18.01.2019 | Forschungsverbund Berlin

nachricht Discovery of enhanced bone growth could lead to new treatments for osteoporosis
18.01.2019 | University of California - Los Angeles

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Ten-year anniversary of the Neumayer Station III

The scientific and political community alike stress the importance of German Antarctic research

Joint Press Release from the BMBF and AWI

The Antarctic is a frigid continent south of the Antarctic Circle, where researchers are the only inhabitants. Despite the hostile conditions, here the Alfred...

Im Focus: Ultra ultrasound to transform new tech

World first experiments on sensor that may revolutionise everything from medical devices to unmanned vehicles

The new sensor - capable of detecting vibrations of living cells - may revolutionise everything from medical devices to unmanned vehicles.

Im Focus: Flying Optical Cats for Quantum Communication

Dead and alive at the same time? Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics have implemented Erwin Schrödinger’s paradoxical gedanken experiment employing an entangled atom-light state.

In 1935 Erwin Schrödinger formulated a thought experiment designed to capture the paradoxical nature of quantum physics. The crucial element of this gedanken...

Im Focus: Nanocellulose for novel implants: Ears from the 3D-printer

Cellulose obtained from wood has amazing material properties. Empa researchers are now equipping the biodegradable material with additional functionalities to produce implants for cartilage diseases using 3D printing.

It all starts with an ear. Empa researcher Michael Hausmann removes the object shaped like a human ear from the 3D printer and explains:

Im Focus: Elucidating the Atomic Mechanism of Superlubricity

The phenomenon of so-called superlubricity is known, but so far the explanation at the atomic level has been missing: for example, how does extremely low friction occur in bearings? Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institutes IWM and IWS jointly deciphered a universal mechanism of superlubricity for certain diamond-like carbon layers in combination with organic lubricants. Based on this knowledge, it is now possible to formulate design rules for supra lubricating layer-lubricant combinations. The results are presented in an article in Nature Communications, volume 10.

One of the most important prerequisites for sustainable and environmentally friendly mobility is minimizing friction. Research and industry have been dedicated...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Our digital society in 2040

16.01.2019 | Event News

11th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Aachen, 3-4 April 2019

14.01.2019 | Event News

ICTM Conference 2019: Digitization emerges as an engineering trend for turbomachinery construction

12.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Additive manufacturing reflects fundamental metallurgical principles to create materials

18.01.2019 | Materials Sciences

How molecules teeter in a laser field

18.01.2019 | Life Sciences

The cytoskeleton of neurons has been found to be involved in Alzheimer's disease

18.01.2019 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>