Medicine

New bird species evolved in just two generations

New bird species evolved in just two generations

Scientists say the arrival 36 years ago of a unusual bird to a remote island in the Galapagos provides direct genetic evidence of their claims. When they noticed a odd bird with a largish beak and unusual song on Daphne Major, therefore, they knew immediately it was not one of the three finch species native to the place. The current research was an analysis of decades of field work on Darwin's finches, inhabitants of this remote ecosystem. His species was from Espa├▒ola island.

"The novelty of this study is that we can follow the emergence of new species in the wild", B. Rosemary Grant, emeritus professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and senior research biologist, said.

A study published on Thursday in the journal Science reported on formation of a new bird species on the Ecuadorean Galápagos Islands. After analyzing the physical traits and genes of the bird, they discovered it turned into a whole new species.

Scientists from Uppsala University analysed DNA collected from the parent birds and their offspring over the years. These new unnamed birds were called simply "Big Bird" because they were larger than the native species, and while it was odd on its own, nature had one more curve ball in store for researchers. What they did manage to attract was each other, and interbreeding resulted in more and more Big Birds on the island.

Daphne Minor is seen beside Daphne Major, home of the new bird species.

This reproductive isolation is considered a critical step in the development of a new species when two separate species interbreed, the scientists said. The hybrid birds couldn't replicate the song of the native finches, and that, combined with their difference in size, prevented them from attracting mates.

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On a remote island called Daphne Major in the Galapagos chain, back in 1981, a team of researchers noticed a odd bird that didn't look like anything typically found on the island. The baby finches were neither one nor the other, and developed with beaks and calls that were unmatched among the resident species.

"We have no indication about the long-term survival of the Big Bird lineage, but it has the potential to become a success, and it provides a attractive example of one way in which speciation occurs", he says. "Charles Darwin would have been excited to read this paper".

Over the past 36 years, scientists have been closely studying the incredible story of an entirely new bird species that seemingly came out of nowhere, and it all started with one poor finch who lost his way.

Even more remarkably, hybrid species have been long believed to be sterile, meaning that they are unable to reproduce and become a viable species, however this observation demonstrates that it is possible.

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