Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Waterbirds' hunt aided by specialized tail: Swimming birds evolved rudder-like tail to dive for food

Date:
February 26, 2014
Source:
PLOS
Summary:
The convergent evolution of tail shapes in diving birds may be driven by foraging style. Birds use their wings and specialized tail to maneuver through the air while flying. It turns out that the purpose of a bird's tail may have also aided in their diversification by allowing them to use a greater variety of foraging strategies. To better understand the relationship between bird tail shape and foraging strategy, researchers examined the tail skeletal structure of over 50 species of waterbirds, like storks, pelicans, and penguins, and shorebirds, like gulls and puffins. They first categorized each species by foraging strategy, such as aerial, terrestrial, and pursuit diving, and then compared the shape and structure of different tails.

This is a contrast of the typical elongate pygostyle of a diving bird (A), the Adélie Penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae, specimen AMNH 623439) to the typical short, dorsally deflected pygostyle of a non-diving bird (B), the Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis, specimen AMNH 20697).
Credit: Ryan Felice; CC-BY

The convergent evolution of tail shapes in diving birds may be driven by foraging style, according to a paper published in PLOS ONE on February 26, 2014 by Ryan Felice and Patrick O'Connor from Ohio University.

Related Articles


Birds use their wings and specialized tail to maneuver through the air while flying. It turns out that the purpose of a bird's tail may have also aided in their diversification by allowing them to use a greater variety of foraging strategies. To better understand the relationship between bird tail shape and foraging strategy, researchers examined the tail skeletal structure of over 50 species of waterbirds, like storks, pelicans, and penguins, and shorebirds, like gulls and puffins. They first categorized each species by foraging strategy, such as aerial, terrestrial, and pursuit diving, and then compared the shape and structure of different tails.

Scientists found that foraging style groups differed significantly in tail skeletal shape, and that shape could accurately "predict" foraging style with only a small amount of mismatch. In particular, underwater foraging birds, such as cormorants, penguins, puffins, gannets, and tropicbirds, have separately evolved a similarly specialized elongated tail structure, whereas aerial and terrestrial birds have a short, dorsally deflected tail structure. Moreover, each underwater foraging group, such as foot propelled, wing propelled, or plunge diving, had a distinctive tail-supporting vertebrae shape. According to the authors, the probable separate evolution of the specialized tail in underwater-diving birds may suggest that body structure adapted to the demand, or the need to move the tail as a rudder during underwater foraging. In contrast, the authors found no conclusive results when looking at the relationship between tail shape and flight style.

Mr. Felice adds, "Previous research has shown that diving birds evolve specializations in wing and leg morphology to facilitate underwater locomotion. This study puts a necessary focus on the tail, finding that this region of the body also evolves in response to the demands of underwater movement."


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Ryan N. Felice, Patrick M. O’Connor. Ecology and Caudal Skeletal Morphology in Birds: The Convergent Evolution of Pygostyle Shape in Underwater Foraging Taxa. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (2): e89737 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0089737

Cite This Page:

PLOS. "Waterbirds' hunt aided by specialized tail: Swimming birds evolved rudder-like tail to dive for food." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 February 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140226174546.htm>.
PLOS. (2014, February 26). Waterbirds' hunt aided by specialized tail: Swimming birds evolved rudder-like tail to dive for food. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140226174546.htm
PLOS. "Waterbirds' hunt aided by specialized tail: Swimming birds evolved rudder-like tail to dive for food." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140226174546.htm (accessed December 21, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) — In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 19, 2014) — Millions of monarch butterflies begin to descend onto Mexico as part of their annual migration south. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Protein-Filled Foods to Energize You for the New Year

The Best Protein-Filled Foods to Energize You for the New Year

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) — The new year is coming and nothing will energize you more for 2015 than protein-filled foods. Fitness and nutrition expert John Basedow (@JohnBasedow) gives his favorite high protein foods that will help you build muscle, lose fat and have endless energy. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Newsy (Dec. 19, 2014) — A new study suggests a certain type of bird was able to sense a tornado outbreak that moved through the U.S. a day before it hit. Video provided by Newsy
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