Friday, June 27, 2008

New bird family tree reveals some odd ducks

The largest study ever of bird genetics has uncovered some surprising facts about the avian evolutionary tree. For the study, conducted by Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History, scientists studied the genetic sequences of 169 bird species in an effort to sort out family relationships in the bird family tree. Scientists believe birds, which first appeared roughly 150 million years ago, evolved from small feathered carnivorous dinosaurs. But their findings challenge many assumptions about bird family relationships and suggest many biology textbooks and bird-watchers' field guides may need to be changed. Falcons, for example, are not closely related to hawks and eagles, despite many similarities, while colorful hummingbirds, which flit around in the day, evolved from a drab-looking nocturnal bird called a nightjar. And parrots and songbirds are closer cousins than once thought. Source: Yahoo News

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