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Researchers Say There Were More Then 55 Species of the Hawaiian Honeycreeper

Family tree of endangered bird species mapped

Hawaiian Honeycreeper

Hawaiian Honeycreeper

A new study has determined the evolutionary family tree of one of the most strikingly diverse and endangered bird families in the world.

Smithsonian scientists and collaborators have determined the evolutionary family tree of the Hawaiian honeycreepers using one of the largest DNA data sets for a group of birds and employing next-generation sequencing methods.

Not only did the researchers determine the types of finches that the honeycreeper family originally evolved from, but also linked the timing of that rapid evolution to the formation of the four main Hawaiian Islands.

There were once more than 55 species of these colorful songbirds, and they are so diverse that historically it wasn’t even entirely clear that they were all part of the same group,” said Heather Lerner, assistant professor of biology at Earlham College, said…

…They also found that unlike most other ancestral bird species that came from North America and colonized the Hawaiian Islands, the rosefinch likely came from Asia.

“There is a perception that there are no species remaining that are actually native to Hawaii, but these are truly native birds that are scientifically valuable and play an important and unique ecological function,” Rob Fleischer, co-author of the paper, said.

The study will be published in the 8th November issue of Current Biology.

Full article here: Family Tree of Endangered Bird Species Mapped

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