Getting deep into the family tree of the avian group is nothing less than a puzzle. But thanks to a group of scientists, we now have one of the most comprehensive bird trees formulated from DNA sequencing.
Data from over 198 bird species were taken into account for the research, which focussed heavily on the species Neoaves. Over 90% of the current bird species are believed to be the sub-species of Neoaves, and only a few like ostriches, chickens and ducks don’t fall under this big family.
The species was further classified into five sub-groups, including water birds, diving birds and shorebirds like pelicans, albatrosses, gulls, flamingos and storks. Hummingbirds and swifts, which are often related with high vision, are now branched under the nocturnal sub-group.
The family tree also explains that most of the land birds might have been evolved from a predatory ancestor, with the oldest of them, Archaeopteryx, believed to have evolved from the survived lineages of the feathered avian dinosaurs.
With the new supposed branching, researchers have also been struck with some new concerns related to the sub-species. Jacob S. Berv from Cornell University links the color-vision properties of humming birds with the nocturnal family, making him concerned about whether they possessed these for all these 10 million years.
Another interesting aspect is the suspicion that all aquatic birds might have evolved from a single species, opposing the current belief of the distinct and multiple evolution of aquatic ecology. The base for the belief forms from the spanning of water birds as compared with diving birds and shorebirds.
Although with a comprehensive view on the family tree, Berv explains that understanding the avian lineage is still a complex thing, which requires getting deeper into historical context. The research was published in the online journal Nature.