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 September 1, 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 September 1, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Monday, September 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) — A new study suggests 100 percent of adult humans (those over 18 years of age) have Demodex mites living in their faces. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Washington Wildlife Center Goes Nuts Over Baby Squirrels

Washington Wildlife Center Goes Nuts Over Baby Squirrels

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 30, 2014) — An animal rescue in Washington state receives an influx of orphaned squirrels, keeping workers busy as they nurse them back to health. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Experimental Ebola Drug ZMapp Cures Lab Monkeys Of Disease

Experimental Ebola Drug ZMapp Cures Lab Monkeys Of Disease

Newsy (Aug. 29, 2014) — In a new study, a promising experimental treatment for Ebola managed to cure a group of infected macaque monkeys. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) — State health officials say testing has confirmed the presence of a killer amoeba in a water system serving three St. John the Baptist Parish towns. (Aug. 28) 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