Study the 'elemental birds’ and their origin Earth, air, water and…fire?

About 66 million years ago, a cataclysmic event known as the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) mass extinction wiped out nearly 75% of Earth’s species, including non-avian dinosaurs. This dramatic event drastically changed the course of life on Earth, especially aerial life.

This mass extinction created a significant ecological vacuum, setting the stage for the diversification and evolution of modern bird species. As a result, birds evolved rapidly, adapting to different ecological niches, leading to the diversity of bird species we see today.

It was released in April this year NatureA foundation study Putting together the most comprehensive bird family tree to date has furthered our understanding of bird evolution. This study is part of Bird 10,000 Genomes Project (B10K), which aims to map the genetic code of every bird species in the next few years.

Researchers from around the world contributed to the decade-long effort, which combined genetic data from 363 bird species and information from 200 fossils, covering 92% of all bird families, giving scientists an unprecedented opportunity. – Controversies and reveal new insights into the evolutionary history of birds.

A phylogenetic tree (a branching diagram showing the evolutionary relationships between different biological species) refines our understanding of the four major lineages in the group of birds called the Nioves, which includes nearly all modern birds:

  1. Mirandornithes, These include flamingos and grebes.
  2. Columbaves, Includes pigeons, doves, sandgrouses, cuckoos, bustards and their relatives.
  3. telluraves, Includes raptors, owls, woodpeckers, vultures, parrots, kingfishers, hornbills, passerines (perching and songbirds) and their relatives.
  4. organs, It includes a wide variety of birds such as pelicans, penguins, loons, hummingbirds, tropicbirds, nightjars, shorebirds, etc., Cranes, albatross and their relatives.

Although the first three classifications have long been validated in ornithology, the determination of „Elementaves” as a separate group is a new discovery of the study. This group is characterized by members adapted to different environments such as land, air and water.

Until now, the existence of this group has been debated because of how diverse it can be in terms of the species it makes up. To put this in perspective, hummingbirds and albatrosses, at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of size and lifestyle, both belong to this group.

Although these pairs may seem odd at first, understanding how these birds evolved can help us understand why genetic data places them in the same evolutionary lineage. Here’s what we know about the evolution of these organs.

The origin of 'elemental’ birds is a story of divergent evolution

Elementaves are a fascinating example of how birds have evolved through various adaptations to exploit different ecological niches. This process is reminiscent of Darwin’s finches in the Galápagos Islands, but occurred on a much longer time scale. This extended time span allowed for the development of ecologically and morphologically diverse species whose shared evolutionary history is difficult to trace.

By analyzing the genomes of the 363 bird species in the study, paying particular attention to segments of DNA that have been least affected by natural selection, the scientists were able to uncover subtle details about the evolutionary history and relationships between these birds. These segments of DNA retain much of the original evolutionary signal of species relationships. This provided new evidence that they diverged from a common ancestor and later adapted to terrestrial, aquatic and aerial environments.

The researchers named this group of birds the „Elementaves” because of their symbolic association with the classical „elements” of earth, water, and air. Although there are no bird species adapted to living in or around fire (for obvious reasons), some species within the group, such as the sun bittern (Eurypica Helias) and Tropicbird (Phaethon is ethereal) scientific names derived from the sun (denoting fire) because of their distinctive, flowing, and sometimes, fiery appearance.

Examples of land, water or air birds from a new group of birds

Hoatzin stands out for its strong connectivity Terrestrial habitats. Frequenting lush riverbanks and dense swamps, the Hodchin’s diet consists mainly of leaves, a rare trait among birds.

In stark contrast to Hodgkin, the penguins of the Elementae bird group epitomize adaptation. Aquatic organisms. With their finely streamlined bodies and strong flightless wings, penguins are exemplary swimmers, navigating the ocean with ease. They spend most of their lives in cold water, where they dive deep to catch fish and other marine life.

Meanwhile, hummingbirds, The Aviation experts This group exhibits extreme agility in the air. Their ability to navigate, fly backwards, and maneuver through complex aerial pathways exemplifies their mastery of the skies, allowing them to access flower nectar with precision.

The discovery of elementae’s bird lineage introduces a new chapter in avian taxonomy, challenging previous assumptions by including hummingbirds, albatrosses, pelicans and other birds as diverse as the enigmatic sunbitter and hutchin.

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