They Outlived Dinosaurs and Are Evolving Faster Than Ever
British scientists today unveiled the world’s first family tree for all living birds – revealing that the group of species that outlived the dinosaurs is still evolving faster than anyone imagined. The unique snapshot goes back 110 million years to when our feathered friends shared the earth with T-Rex and the skies with pterodactyls. It charts where the birds live to show where the most diversification has taken place in the world.
The research, published in the journal Nature, has identified nearly 10,000 species of birdlife still in existence – many of which existed before the extinction of the dinosaurs, the ancestors from which birds probably evolved. One of the biggest surprises of the Sheffield University research is that new species of birds have developed faster over the past 50 million years than they did at the start of the evolutionary chain. Academics believe it is the power of flight which has made the species more robust than other animals, enabling under threat flocks to migrate long distances and adapt to changes that would otherwise have wiped them out.