Birds evolving more quickly than expected: SFU researchers
A new study produced by scientists, including two at Simon Fraser University, has found that birds are evolving more quickly than expected.
The finding, to be published in the scientific journal Nature, is contrary to the scientists' expectations.
The study by SFU biologist Arne Mooers, Jeff Joy, a postdoctoral fellow in his lab, and researchers at Yale University, University of Sheffield and University of Tasmania, involved the creation of the world's first family tree linking every known bird species on the planet.
Over five years, they used fossil data dating back to the dinosaurs, DNA data and supercomputers to create the family tree, while also mapping where and when the creation of the 9,993 bird species currently alive took place.
They discovered that the creation of new bird species is increasing, not the reverse.
“Perhaps birds are special,” said Mooers in a press release. “Maybe they’re so good at getting around they can escape local competition from relatives and start anew elsewhere, producing bursts of new species at different times and in different parts of the globe.”
On the other hand, this doesn't change the fact that birds species' rate of extinction is much faster.
Researchers estimate that birds have recently been proliferating at a rate of about one new bird species every 700 years. Meanwhile, they estimate birds’ recent human-caused extinction rate to be about 300 times higher.