National Geographic News Photo Gallery: PHOTOS: Bird Odd Couples Revealed by New Gene Study

Posted on June 30, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized |


National Geographic News Photo Gallery: PHOTOS: Bird Odd Couples Revealed by New Gene Study

June 26, 2008–They may not look like close cousins, but parrots–such as the hyacinth macaw (left)–and songbirds, including the northern cardinal, are among evolution’s avian “odd couples,” according to the largest ever genetic study of birds.

Released today, the study has shaken up the branches of the avian family tree and proven that you can’t judge a bird family by its feathers.

“Ultimately what it means to me is, if you want your field guide to reflect the actual history of the relationships of birds, there are going to be some dramatic changes,” said study co-author Shannon Hackett, a bird curator at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History.

The new findings also suggest that birds have had a complex evolutionary history after an early explosion of species.

Brian Handwerk

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