01 Nov 2012:
Family Tree for Birds Reveals
Steady Diversification of Avian Species
A team of scientists has compiled what it calls the most comprehensive “family tree” of birds ever assembled
, an evolutionary history that reveals that the world’s avian species have become increasingly
Family tree of birds
biologically diverse in recent geological epochs, challenging the conventional wisdom of biodiversity experts. Using fossil evidence, DNA data, and geographical information collected from across the globe, the researchers categorized each of the 9,993 known bird species into a comprehensive lineage, creating a “full global picture of diversification” in space and time. While other types of species have seen declines in biodiversity as available “niches” become filled, the researchers found that the speciation of birds has actually accelerated over the last 50 million years. “Many parts of the globe have seen a variety of species groups diversify rapidly and recently,” said Walter Jetz, a Yale University biologist and lead author of the study, published in the journal Nature
. The authors suggest this accelerated rate of diversification may be the result of group-specific adaptations, the opening of new habitats, and the inherent mobility of many bird species that has allowed them migrate to new regions and exploit ecological opportunities. Surprisingly, the group’s findings showed little difference in diversification rates between the tropics and high latitudes.
Yale Environment 360 is
a publication of the
Yale School of Forestry
& Environmental Studies
Yale Environment 360
articles are now available in Spanish and Portuguese on Universia
, the online educational network. Visit the site.
Business & Innovation
Policy & Politics
Pollution & Health
Science & Technology
Antarctica and the Arctic
Central & South America
Photographer Robert Wintner documents the exquisite beauty and biodiversity of Cuba’s coral reefs, which are largely intact thanks to stifled coastal development in the communist nation. View the gallery.
is now available for mobile devices at e360.yale.edu/mobile
The Warriors of Qiugang
, a Yale Environment 360
video, chronicles a Chinese village’s fight against a polluting chemical plant. It was nominated for a 2011 Academy Award for Best Documentary Short.
Watch the video.
Top Image: aerial view of Iceland
. © Google & TerraMetrics.
A three-part series Tainted Harvest
looks at the soil pollution crisis in China, the threat it poses to the food supply, and the complexity of any cleanup. Read the series.