Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Colorful boundary trespassers: Burrowing parrots crossed the Andes 120,000 years ago

Date:
July 14, 2011
Source:
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Summary:
The different populations of the South American burrowing parrot originated in Chile. The Andes of southern South America form a hostile mountain range with glaciers, salty deserts and high elevation steppes. Birds from more moderate climate zones cross this mountain range only rarely. Nevertheless, many species live on both sides of the Andes, as in the case of the burrowing parrot Cyanoliseus patagonus.

Burrowing parrots at a feeding place. These parrots originated in the steppes of the Andean slopes in Chile, from where they expanded to Patagonia reaching as far as the Atlantic Ocean.
Credit: Fabiαn Llanos

The Andes of southern South America form a hostile mountain range with glaciers, salty deserts and high elevation steppes. Birds from more moderate climate zones cross this mountain range only rarely. Nevertheless, many species live on both sides of the Andes, as in the case of the burrowing parrot Cyanoliseus patagonus.

Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, together with colleagues from the University of Freiburg and the Konrad Lorenz Institute for Ethology, Vienna, found that the ancestral population of the burrowing parrot occupied what is today Chile, and from there only a single crossing of the Andes was successful.

Burrowing parrots offer good possibilities to study how animal species expand to suitable habitats overcoming natural barriers, as they are tied to specific places for breeding, thus restricting the number of breeding sites. These colourful parrots breed in colonies located in cliffs of sandstone or limestone. The ravines with the colonies are usually located along rivers, in the valleys at both sides of the Andes, and along the cliffs of the Atlantic coast. The researchers conducted two surveys of more than 13,000 kilometres, discovering 66 colonies of burrowing parrots where they collected naturally moulted feathers. The researchers were able to decode relationships among individual colonies using genetic material extracted from these feathers.

"The results are fascinating," Juan F. Masello explains, "Contrary to our expectations, the ancestral population originated on the Pacific side of the Andes, where Chile is now, and where there are only small colonies at present. From there, this species managed to successfully cross the Andes on a single occasion. The two Argentinean sub-species originated from this starting population. One of them successfully expanded along rivers until reaching the Atlantic Ocean, where the largest colonies of the species can presently be found. In El Cσndor, this species forms the largest parrot colony in the world, with more than 35,000 breeding pairs."

"The genetic data were brought into a timeframe using the age of fossils" added Petra Quillfeldt. "This way, we were able to estimate that the crossing of the Andes occurred more than 120,000 years ago." "Our findings are very important for improving conservation actions of the different sub-species," added the researchers. The Chilean sub-species is highly threatened by extinction, as only 5,000 -- 6,000 of these animals remain. Even today, too many individuals are caught and kept as pet companions. The strong genetic separation of the Chilean sub-species is another reason for the strengthening of conservation measures. A similar situation affects the northern sub-species in Argentina, of which only 2,000 pairs breed in the wild. The numerically largest sub-species, occurring in Patagonia (southern Argentina), is threatened by habitat destruction, as the steppes are rapidly cleared for the production of Soya.

A similarly comprehensive study, investigating a bird species in its entire range on both sides of the Andes, was not available until now. The study shows that the Andes are an effective barrier to gene flux that is only rarely overcome. The crossing of the Andes occurred in the area of the high Andes close to the Aconcagua (6,962m), probably over a pass of more than 3,000 meters of altitude.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Juan F Masello, Petra Quillfeldt, Gopi K Munimanda, Nadine Klauke, Gernot Segelbacher, H MARTIN Schaefer, Mauricio Failla, Maritza Cortes, Yoshan Moodley. The high Andes, gene flow and a stable hybrid zone shape the genetic structure of a wide-ranging South American parrot. Frontiers in Zoology, 2011; 8 (1): 16 DOI: 10.1186/1742-9994-8-16

Cite This Page:

Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. "Colorful boundary trespassers: Burrowing parrots crossed the Andes 120,000 years ago." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 July 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110713093144.htm>.
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. (2011, July 14). Colorful boundary trespassers: Burrowing parrots crossed the Andes 120,000 years ago. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110713093144.htm
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. "Colorful boundary trespassers: Burrowing parrots crossed the Andes 120,000 years ago." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110713093144.htm (accessed August 1, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Friday, August 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Visitors Feel Part of the Pack at Wolf Preserve

Visitors Feel Part of the Pack at Wolf Preserve

AP (July 31, 2014) — Seacrest Wolf Preserve on the northern Florida panhandle allows more than 10,000 visitors each year to get up close and personal with Arctic and British Columbian Wolves. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers

Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers

AP (July 31, 2014) — With Florida's panther population rebounding, some ranchers complain the protected predators are once again killing their calves. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida

Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida

AP (July 31, 2014) — Sarasota County, Florida health officials have issued a warning against eating raw oysters and exposing open wounds to coastal and inland waters after a dangerous bacteria killed one person and made another sick. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

AP (July 30, 2014) — Thousands of people are trekking to a Bavarian farmer's field to check out a mysterious set of crop circles. (July 30) Video provided by AP
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:
from the past week

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