Interesting nod to Richard in Ed Yong article

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Discussion by: CliveHill

http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2014/05/22/the-surprising-closest-relative-of-the-huge-elephant-birds/

Ed reports on some work that updates the family tree of ratites and he notes:

"Indeed, in his 2004 book The Ancestor’s Tale, Richard Dawkins writes, “I take delight in the power of natural selection, and it would have given me satisfaction to report that the ratites evolved their flightlessness separately in different parts of the world… Alas, this is not so.” Cheer up, Richard. It is so."

 

2 COMMENTS

  1. Nice find. The article itself provides some fascinating information, some of which quite surprised me (based on this study, I had thought of tinamous as the outgroup to the ratites rather than being an ingroup). It doesn’t seem so surprising to me now, though. Quite apart from the fact these lineages were diverging roughly during the same timespan the placental mammals were, flightlessness evolved several times in various island species, such as the dodo, the kakapo, and the kagu.

    Getting back to the ratites, though, I do wonder what happened to their flying relatives besides the tinamous. Outcompeted by the other bird groups, perhaps?

    Also, I should include the penultimate paragraph from the NatGeo article, which suggests this investigation is far from settled:

    “If there’s a crack in this story, it’s that Cooper’s result is based on mitochondrial genomes—small, secondary sets of DNA within our cells. In the past, scientists have had to revise conclusions based on mitochondrial DNA after getting their hands on the main nuclear genome. “The mitochondria only give us part of the picture,” says Bunce. “The next challenge is to peek into the nuclear genome.””

    • In reply to #1 by Zeuglodon:

      Nice find. The article itself provides some fascinating information, some of which quite surprised me (based on this study, I had thought of tinamous as the outgroup to the ratites rather than being an ingroup). It doesn’t seem so surprising to me now, though. Quite apart from the fact these lineage…

      And the New Zealanders and playing their national anthem all over the land. Their small flightless national bird, the Kiwi, was thought to be a descendant of the Australian Emu. The science now shows it’s closest relative is the Elephant Bird. New Zealanders refer to Australia as the West Island and there is a friendly rivalry between the nations.

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