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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Best view of bird evolution yet

A series of articles published this week (see overview here) provide the best view of bird evolution yet. Based on the complete gene map of over 40 species from all the recognized bird orders, and taking over 400 years of computer computation time to calculate, this is a real thing of beauty. Here's the tree--

Source Jarvis et al 2014

Interesting evidence that many of the landlords we know of may have descended from the lineage of some sort of raptorial bird that lived through the asteroid impact that destroyed the rest of the dinosaurs--with one group evolving in Africa (Afroaves--woodpeckers, hawks, etc.) and another in Australia (Australaves--falcons, parrots, songbirds, etc.).

There's a lot to digest here, but it's definitely a golden age of bird taxonomy with the technology we have now giving us a much better view than ever before of how our world came to be inhabited by our feathered friends (and everything else, for that matter!).

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