Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Hummingbirds' 22-million-year-old history of remarkable change is far from complete

Date:
April 3, 2014
Source:
Cell Press
Summary:
The first comprehensive map of hummingbirds' 22-million-year-old family tree -- reconstructed based on careful analysis of 284 of the world's 338 known species -- tells a story of rapid and ongoing diversification. The decade-long study also helps to explain how today's hummingbirds came to live where they do.

Male broad-billed hummingbird with flowers (stock image). Part of the secret to the birds' remarkable success lies in the formation of nine principal groups or clades, hummingbirds' unique relationship to flowering plants, and the birds' continued spread into new geographic areas, the researchers say.
Credit: © Dennis Donohue / Fotolia

The first comprehensive map of hummingbirds' 22-million-year-old family tree -- reconstructed based on careful analysis of 284 of the world's 338 known species -- tells a story of rapid and ongoing diversification. The decade-long study reported in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on April 3 also helps to explain how today's hummingbirds came to live where they do.

Part of the secret to the birds' remarkable success lies in the formation of nine principal groups or clades, hummingbirds' unique relationship to flowering plants, and the birds' continued spread into new geographic areas, the researchers say.

"Hummingbirds have essentially been reinventing themselves throughout their 22-million-year history," says Jim McGuire of the University of California, Berkeley.

While all hummingbirds depend on flower nectar to fuel their high metabolisms and hovering flight, coordinated changes in flower and bill shape have helped to drive the formation of new species of both hummingbirds and plants. Remarkably, as many as 25 hummingbird species are able to coexist in some places.

"One of the really cool features of hummingbird evolution is that they all eat the same thing yet have diversified dramatically," McGuire says. "It really is a big surprise that hummingbirds have divided the nectarivore niche so extensively."

The new, time-calibrated evolutionary tree shows that ancestral hummingbirds split from the swifts and treeswifts about 42 million years ago, probably in Eurasia. By about 22 million years ago, the ancestral species of all modern hummingbirds had made its way to South America, and that's when things really took off.

The Andes Mountains are a particular hotspot for hummingbird evolution, because diversification occurred along with the uplift of those peaks over the past 10 million years. About 140 hummingbird species live in the Andes today.

The availability of new land areas in North America and the Caribbean has also played an important role in the evolution of new hummingbird species. For example, McGuire says, the bee hummingbirds colonized North America about 5 million years ago and consequently experienced rates of speciation that rival textbook examples of adaptive radiation.

The new picture of the birds' past is an important step toward understanding how they have adapted to novel environments, like those found at low-oxygen, high-altitude mountain peaks. It also points to an exciting future.

"Our findings strongly indicate that hummingbirds remain engaged in a dynamic diversification process, filling available ecological and spatial niches across North America, South America, and the Caribbean," the researchers write. "Thus, the dramatic radiation of this unique avian lineage is far from complete."


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Jimmy A. McGuire, Christopher C. Witt, J.V. Remsen, Ammon Corl, Daniel L. Rabosky, Douglas L. Altshuler, Robert Dudley. Molecular Phylogenetics and the Diversification of Hummingbirds. Current Biology, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.03.016

Cite This Page:

Cell Press. "Hummingbirds' 22-million-year-old history of remarkable change is far from complete." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 April 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140403132207.htm>.
Cell Press. (2014, April 3). Hummingbirds' 22-million-year-old history of remarkable change is far from complete. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140403132207.htm
Cell Press. "Hummingbirds' 22-million-year-old history of remarkable change is far from complete." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140403132207.htm (accessed July 28, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

AP (July 28, 2014) — Classes are being offered nationwide to encourage African Americans to learn about cooking fresh foods based on traditional African cuisine. The program is trying to combat obesity, heart disease and other ailments often linked to diet. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) — A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Newsy (July 27, 2014) — The satellite is back under ground control after a tense few days, but with a gecko sex experiment on board, the media just couldn't help themselves. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Newsy (July 27, 2014) — A national study conducted by the USDA Forest Service found that trees collectively save more than 850 lives on an annual basis. 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:
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