Navigation Links
New research challenges long-held assumptions of flightless bird evolution
Date:9/3/2008

GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- Large flightless birds of the southern continents African ostriches, Australian emus and cassowaries, South American rheas and the New Zealand kiwi do not share a common flightless ancestor as once believed.

Instead, each species individually lost its flight after diverging from ancestors that did have the ability to fly, according to new research conducted in part by University of Florida zoology professor Edward Braun.

The new research, which appears this week in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, has several important implications.

First, it means some ratites, like the emus, are much more closely related to their airborne cousins, the tinamous, than they are to other ratites, Braun said.

Second, it means the ratites are products of parallel evolution different species in significantly different environments following the exact same evolutionary course.

Braun and his fellow researchers began closely studying this group of flightless birds, known collectively as ratites, after a discovery made while working on a larger-scale effort to better understand the evolution of birds and their genomes by analyzing corresponding genetic material sampled from the tissue of many different bird species and determining how they relate to one another.

As they analyzed the genetic material, they noticed that the ratites did not form a natural group based on their genetic makeup. Rather, they belonged to multiple related but distinct groups that contained another group of birds, the tinamous, with the ability to fly.

Previously, the ratites were used as a textbook example of vicariance, a term that describes the geographical division of a single species, resulting in two or more very similar sub-groups that can then undergo further evolutionary change and eventually become very distinct from one another.

Scientists assumed that a single flightless common ancestor of the ratites lived on the supercontinent of Gondwana, which slowly broke up into Africa, South America, Australia and New Zealand; once divided, the ancestor species evolved slightly in each new location to produce the differences among the present-day ratites, Braun said.

But in light of this new information, he said it's more likely that the ratites' ancestors distributed themselves among the southern continents after the breakup of Gondwana, which began about 167 million years ago, in a much more obvious way.

They flew.

Although these new revelations teach evolutionary scientists a great deal, they also pose a great many new questions. For example, why did these birds evolve into such similar organisms in such different environments?

"To know for sure, we'll have to go into the lab and really study the genetics underlying the ratites' developmental pathway," Braun said. "But nobody would have asked that question without the type of data we've collected, which raises the question in the first place."

The scientists' effort to analyze such a tremendous amount of genetic material collected from birds across the globe is in turn just a single part of a program called Assembling the Tree of Life, funded and organized by the National Science Foundation, which aims to assemble a body of similar research for every group of organisms on the planet, including animals, plants, fungi, algae and bacteria.


'/>"/>

Contact: Edward Braun
ebraun68@ufl.edu
352-846-1124
University of Florida
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. NYU Cancer Institute researcher among first NIH EUREKA award recipients
2. Halas wins prestigious nanotechnology research award
3. NIH EUREKA award funds research at WPI aimed at turning adult skin cells into stem-like cells
4. Healthy Minds Across America features 48 public forums on mental health research, Sept. 14
5. Hopkins researchers piece together gene network linked to schizophrenia
6. TGen and Washington University researchers discover new approach to treating endometrial cancer
7. Researchers devise means to create blood by identifying earliest stem cells
8. Researchers discover atomic bomb effect results in adult-onset thyroid cancer
9. Antidepressants need new nerve cells to be effective, UT Southwestern researchers find
10. Iowa State University researcher shows proteins have controlled motions
11. Indiana U researchers launch social networking and research management tool for scientists
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:2/1/2016)... NEW YORK , Feb. 1, 2016  Today, ... Heart Association (AHA) announced plans to develop a first ... cognitive computing power of IBM Watson. In the first ... disease, AHA, IBM (NYSE: IBM ), and Welltok ... metrics and health assessments with cognitive analytics, delivered on ...
(Date:1/27/2016)... CHESTER, Ohio , Jan. 27, 2016  Rite ... supplier based in West Chester, Ohio ... their award winning service staff, based in ... technical capacity and ability to provide modifications, installations and ... John Dovalina , CEO of PLUS, commented, "PLUS has ...
(Date:1/22/2016)... , January 22, 2016 /PRNewswire/ ... announced the addition of the  "Global ... their offering. --> http://www.researchandmarkets.com/research/4lmf2s/global_behavioral ... the  "Global Behavioral Biometric Market 2016-2020" ... Research and Markets ( http://www.researchandmarkets.com/research/4lmf2s/global_behavioral ) ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:2/4/2016)... British Columbia and MENLO PARK, Calif. ... (OTCQX: DMPI) ("DelMar" and the "Company"), a biopharmaceutical company ... today announced that it will present at the 18 ... Monday, February 8, 2016 at 10:00 a.m. EST in ... Bacha , DelMar,s president and CEO, will provide an update ...
(Date:2/4/2016)... Feb. 4, 2016  Spherix Incorporated (Nasdaq: SPEX ... and monetization of intellectual property, today provided an update ... the Northern District of Texas ... Inter Partes Re-examination ("IPR") proceedings that ... The IPR was initiated on only certain claims of ...
(Date:2/4/2016)... OXFORD, England , February 4, 2016 ... Advanced Bioscience Laboratories (ABL), Inc. --> Strasbourg, ... (ABL), Inc. --> PharmaVentures is pleased to announce ... sale of its biopharmaceutical manufacturing unit in Strasbourg, ... (ABL), Inc. --> --> ...
(Date:2/3/2016)... Pa. , Feb. 3, 2016  Discovery ... company focused on developing aerosolized KL4 surfactant therapies ... of Directors has approved an inducement award as ... Fraser , its newly appointed President and Chief ... Board,s Compensation Committee on February 1, 2016 and ...
Breaking Biology Technology: