Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

'Time-sharing' Tropical Birds Key To Evolutionary Mystery

Date:
November 20, 2007
Source:
Queen's University
Summary:
Whereas most birds are sole proprietors of their nests, some tropical species "time share" together -- a discovery that helps clear up a 150-year-old evolutionary mystery, says a biology professor.

Illustration of tropical petrel seabirds.
Credit: Illustration by Mark Bolton, courtesy of Queen's University

Whereas most birds are sole proprietors of their nests, some tropical species “time share” together – a discovery that helps clear up a 150-year-old evolutionary mystery, says Biology professor Vicki Friesen.

The Queen’s-led international study confirms one of Charles Darwin’s more controversial theories – first put forward in 1859 and since disputed by many experts – that different species can arise, unhindered, in the same place. Others believe that a geographic barrier such as a mountain or a river is required to produce two separate species. Although focused on how species change over time through natural selection, Darwin’s landmark book, The Origin of Species, also speculates that it is possible for different species to develop in the same place.

With PhD student Andrea Smith and an international team of researchers, Dr. Friesen studied a small seabird called the band-rumped storm petrel, which nests on desert islands in the tropics and sub-tropics. They observed that one set of petrels will breed in burrows, raise their chicks, and leave for the winter. Then a different set of birds moves in – similar to a vacation “time share” – and repeats the pattern in the very same burrows. When the season changes again, the first set of birds will return.

“We’re taught today that new species generally emerge as a result of a geographic barrier such as a mountain range or river, creating two separate populations that can’t easily move from one place to the other,” says Dr. Friesen, an expert in evolutionary biology. “While that model fits for many parts of the natural world, it doesn’t explain why some species appear to have evolved separately, within the same location, where there are no geographic barriers to gene flow.”

The evidence for this happening in certain types of plants, insects and fish has led to a number of scientific explanations, such as salmon spawning in the same location at different times of year. Until now, however, there have only been two documented cases that such a pattern might occur in birds, and no clear evidence as to how it happens in any warm-blooded creature.

Using DNA samples retrieved from birds breeding in the Azores, Madeira, Cape Verde and the Galapagos, the researchers determined that petrels breeding in different seasons but from the same burrows did indeed differ genetically. They also learned that the seasonal species had not bred with each other for periods ranging from around 1,000 to 180,000 years, providing a series of “time shots” of divergence, Dr. Friesen explains.

“This is important for us to know, not just as an explanation for how new species can arise, but also because biodiversity is part of a healthy ecosystem and each bird species is part of our natural heritage,” she says, noting that the European Union is now elevating the conservation status of band-rumped storm petrels.

“It’s also exciting to be able to verify Darwin’s original theory!” Dr. Friesen adds.

The team’s findings will appear in the international journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Other members of the research team include: Elena Gomez-Diaz and Jacob Gonzalez-Solis from the University of Barcelona; Mark Bolton and the late Luis Monteiro from the University of Azores; and Robert Furness from the University of Glasgow.

Among funders of the study are: the American Museum of Natural History, the American Ornithologists’ Union, the European Economic Union LIFE program, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and Queen’s School of Graduate Studies.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Queen's University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Queen's University. "'Time-sharing' Tropical Birds Key To Evolutionary Mystery." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 November 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071113160351.htm>.
Queen's University. (2007, November 20). 'Time-sharing' Tropical Birds Key To Evolutionary Mystery. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071113160351.htm
Queen's University. "'Time-sharing' Tropical Birds Key To Evolutionary Mystery." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071113160351.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

AP (Oct. 21, 2014) Where's a body buried? Buster's nose can often tell you. He's a cadaver dog, specially trained to find human remains and increasingly being used by law enforcement and accepted in courts. These dogs are helping solve even decades-old mysteries. (Oct. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) Two white lion cubs, an extremely rare subspecies of the African lion, were recently born at Belgrade Zoo. They are being bottle fed by zoo keepers after they were rejected by their mother after birth. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) He is leading a one man agricultural revolution in Mali - Oumar Diatabe uses traditional farming methods to get the most out of his land and is teaching others across the country how to do the same. Duration: 01:44 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goliath Spider Will Give You Nightmares

Goliath Spider Will Give You Nightmares

Buzz60 (Oct. 20, 2014) An entomologist stumbled upon a South American Goliath Birdeater. With a name like that, you know it's a terrifying creepy crawler. Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins