Navigation Links
Smithsonian scientists use fossil feathers reveal lineage of extinct, flightless ibis
Date:11/22/2011

A remarkable first occurred recently at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History when ornithologists Carla Dove and Storrs Olson used 700- to 1,100-year-old feathers from a long extinct species of Hawaiian ibis to help determine the bird's place in the ibis family tree. The feathers are the only known plumage of any of the prehistorically extinct birds that once inhabited the Hawaiian Islands.

Discovered with a nearly complete skeleton, the feathers retained enough microscopic structure to allow the scientists to confirm the classification of the bird, known by its scientific name Apteribis sp, as a close relative of the American white ibis (Eudocimus albus) and scarlet ibis (Eudocimus buber). DNA analysis confirmed this classification.

Remarkably, the feathers also retained enough pigmentation for Dove and Olson to determine that the bird was brown-black to ivory-beige in color. This is a first―the plumage color of any prehistorically extinct Hawaiian bird up until now had been speculation.

Apteribis sp. is one of only two species of flightless ibis, both now extinct. Its skeleton differs so much from its mainland ancestors that the bird's relationship to other ibises could only be determined through the study of its feathers and DNA analysis.

"This find is highly unusual because feathers do not preserve well and often decay before a bird is fossilized," Dove said. "These weren't fossil imprints in a rock, but feathers and bones we could actually pick up."

Exceptional geologic circumstances led to the preservation of the feathers inside a lava cave on the Hawaiian Island of Lanai. The floor of the cave was partially covered in a deep layer of flaky gypsum crystals, which, for hundreds of years absorbed humidity in the cave and created an arid environment ideal for preservation of the feathers.

From a taxonomic standpoint feathers are significant because the shape of microscopic barbs on specific areas of a feather have distinct features that taxonomists can use to determine what bird group it belongs to.

"The barbs are unique only on the downy, fluffy part at the base of the feather, not at the tip," Dove said. "These microstructures are similar among orders of birdspigeons, ducks, songbirds, for example.

Using specimens from the Smithsonian's collection, Dove compared the microscopic structures of the ancient feathers to those of modern day birds. Her analysis confirmed that Apteribis sp. is most closely related the New World ibises of the genus Eudocimus. Apteribis sp. was first described from fossils found on the Hawaiian Islands of Molokai and Maui. It is one of dozens of bird species known to have gone extinct following the arrival of humans on the Hawaiian Islands.

"Fossil Feathers from the Hawaiian Flightless Ibis (Apteribis SP.): Plumage Coloration and Systematics of a Prehistorically Extinct Bird," by Carla Dove and Storrs Olson appeared in the September 2011 issue of the Journal of Paleontology.


'/>"/>

Contact: John Gibbons
gibbonsjp@si.edu
202-633-5187
Smithsonian
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Smithsonian perspective: Biodiversity in a warmer world
2. Smithsonian puts tropical Eastern-Pacific shore fishes online
3. Smithsonian puts tropical eastern Pacific shore fishes online
4. New movement models tested at the Smithsonian in Panama
5. Smithsonian scientists receive coveted BBVA Ecology and Conservation Award
6. Smithsonian scientist warns that palm oil development may threaten Amazon
7. First jaguar photo taken at Smithsonian Research Station in Panama
8. Smithsonian scientists find the frog legs trade may facilitate spread of pathogens
9. Stress and trade-offs explain lifes diversity: New Smithsonian model
10. Smithsonian hosts 2010 International CAM Workshop in Panama
11. Smithsonian scientists help create first frozen repository for Hawaiian coral
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Smithsonian scientists use fossil feathers reveal lineage of extinct, flightless ibis
(Date:6/22/2016)... ANGELES , June 22, 2016 /PRNewswire/ ... identity management and verification solutions, has partnered ... edge software solutions for Visitor Management, Self-Service ... provides products that add functional enhancements ... partnership provides corporations and venues with an ...
(Date:6/21/2016)... British Columbia , June 21, 2016 /PRNewswire/ ... appointed to the new role of principal product ... been named the director of customer development. Both ... NuData,s chief technical officer. The moves reflect NuData,s ... teams in response to high customer demand and ...
(Date:6/16/2016)... 16, 2016 The global ... to reach USD 1.83 billion by 2024, according ... Inc. Technological proliferation and increasing demand in commercial ... to drive the market growth.      ... The development of advanced multimodal techniques for biometric ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... ... While the majority of commercial spectrophotometers and fluorometers use the z-dimension of ... higher end machines that use the more unconventional z-dimension of 20mm. Z-dimension ... of the cuvette holder. , FireflySci has developed several Agilent flow cell product ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... Seattle, WA (PRWEB) , ... June 23, 2016 ... ... technology, announces the release of its second eBook, “Clinical Trials Patient Recruitment and ... patient recruitment and retention in this eBook by providing practical tips, tools, and ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... CAMBRIDGE, Mass. , June 23, 2016 /PRNewswire/ ... the development of novel compounds designed to target ... compound, napabucasin, has been granted Orphan Drug Designation ... in the treatment of gastric cancer, including gastroesophageal ... cancer stemness inhibitor designed to inhibit cancer stemness ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... Md. , June 23, 2016 A person ... from the crime scene to track the criminal down. ... the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) uses DNA evidence ... Sound far-fetched? It,s not. The FDA ... sequencing to support investigations of foodborne illnesses. Put as simply ...
Breaking Biology Technology: