Home > DNA in the News > DNA Studies and the Evolution of Birds

DNA Studies and the Evolution of Birds

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 28 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Dna Evolution Birds Avian Research Study

Although many of us are fascinated with the concept of human DNA, have you ever considered how DNA in animals can provide valuable clues about evolution? In the case of birds, scientists recently conducted a study of birds using modernised gene analysis methods, which provided some very interesting clues about evolutionary relationships.

The results were quite surprising, resulting in a number of changes to the older avian evolutionary tree. Ultimately, the entire evolutionary tree has been modified to a large extent, which is considered a positive step for our knowledge of avian evolution.

Learning About Avian Evolution

In fact, the study results mean that many biologists will now be reconsidering a great deal of what they previously believed about avian evolution. While much of evolution still remains a mystery – given that modern birds seemingly came into existence between sixty-five and one hundred million years ago – this new study has brought forth some very unexpected relationships to help fill in the gaps of avian evolution.

Previous Information on Avian Evolution

Prior to this recent study, the small number of gene studies among the different orders had been mostly concerned with only one or two genes. Not only that, but results had been quite varied with no clear conclusions drawn. In this way, recent research has been somewhat of a leap in terms of our knowledge about avian evolution.

To remedy this knowledge gap, researchers sequenced nineteen regions of the genome in 169 different species of birds. In total, this amounted to thousands of DNA 'letters' for each species. Researchers then utilised these sequences to put together an avian evolutionary tree.

Surprising Results of the Avian Study

The new tree, however, was not exactly what most biologists might have expected. It contained a number of surprising results. In one instance, falcons were found to be more closely related to songbirds than they are to hawks or eagles. If you think about the little hummingbirds you see, they are actually simply a more specialised type of nighthawk. Given that the nighthawk has such a bulky shape, one would not have expected these two kinds of birds to be cousins.

New Directions for Avian Evolution

Overall, this new evolutionary tree has meant that approximately one third of the orders in previous phylogenies of birds have been reworked. All of this new research now replaces much of the older, outdated information we had on avian evolution. The study shows how DNA can provide important linkages in the evolutionary tree and can also provide a more accurate, logical picture of how birds evolved over time.

Biologists are quite excited about the findings, primarily because it fills in a number of gaps and also clarifies previously believed relationships between different species. While many of the findings were surprising ones, the study is widely supported and considered to be a more accurate and clear representation of avian evolution.

DNA and Evolution Become Clearer

With sorting out avian evolution remaining a key goal of biologists, this new study has now provided some important and interesting clues that help to fill in those intermediate evolutionary gaps. Hopefully, future DNA research can provide more information into avian evolution as well as links to various species.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Topics
Latest Comments
  • Gnisselb
    Re: The Properties of DNA
    Explain the chemical characteristics of DNA and the histones that allows them to form a complex. how do I answer this question
    28 August 2018
  • Saige
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    My mother just told me she has reason to believe that the man she knew as her father was not her biological father. She wants to know if…
    24 August 2018
  • ExploreDNA
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    Lizzy - Your Question:My father passed away a few months ago and there are 3 children claiming to be his I knew nothing of. He is not named…
    24 August 2018
  • Lizzy
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    My father passed away a few months ago and there are 3 children claiming to be his I knew nothing of. He is not named on their birth…
    23 August 2018
  • Carol
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    Hi , I was alway told about my dad and that he had another daughter and son younger than me , I have recently been in touch with my so called…
    12 August 2018
  • Vivi
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    My father died in 1993 and was buried never knowing who his father was. We have endlessly tried to find out but can’t. No way. Is there a…
    5 August 2018
  • Apache
    Re: DNA and Oxidative Damage
    I am a 54 year old white female. When I was 16 years old again when I was 20 years old I took Accutane. I have DNA damage due to the…
    23 July 2018
  • JohnDavid18
    Re: Evolution of DNA
    150 years later and there is NO mechansim for evolution. Natural Selection is NOT a mechanism. They cannot locate a SINGLE mechanism that CAUSES,…
    18 July 2018
  • Sin
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    Hi, My uncle died over 20 years ago. I found out 15 years ago that my best friends brother in law was raising a child, that was supposedly…
    15 July 2018
  • Douchkniexeye
    Re: An Overview of DNA Functions
    This was awesome fun to read! Good information! Loved it!
    14 July 2018