Birds of a feather

In the largest ever study of bird genetics, a five-year international collaboration has redrawn the avian family tree. The report, published in Science this week (June 27), proposes surprising new classifications and suggests that environmental adaptations arose multiple times in bird history. "It's an important paper that represents a very comprehensive study," said linkurl:Larry Martin,;http://www.nhm.ku.edu/paleontology/ldmartin.htm Curator of the National History Museum at the University

Megan Scudellari
Jun 25, 2008
In the largest ever study of bird genetics, a five-year international collaboration has redrawn the avian family tree. The report, published in Science this week (June 27), proposes surprising new classifications and suggests that environmental adaptations arose multiple times in bird history. "It's an important paper that represents a very comprehensive study," said linkurl:Larry Martin,;http://www.nhm.ku.edu/paleontology/ldmartin.htm Curator of the National History Museum at the University of Kansas, who was not involved in the research. A reliable avian family tree has remained elusive due to birds' reputed explosive divergence 150 million years ago. Competing morphologic, cladistic, and genomic studies have presented conflicting results, Martin noted. The new classification means "you pretty well have to re-do everything," he said. "But that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's nice to get something reasonably stable." For their phylogeny, linkurl:Shannon Hackett,;http://fm1.fieldmuseum.org/aa/staff_page.cgi?staff=hackett head of the Division of Birds at the linkurl:Field Museum;http://www.fieldmuseum.org/ in Chicago, and colleagues collected...

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!
Already a member?