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Bird Research of the Century

Posted on in News
A paper that came out in Science a fortnight before Christmas counts as the most important work on birds this century, by offering something that has eluded science for well over a century – a reliable tree of life for the world’s bird orders.

Biology was shaken some years ago by evidence implying that parrots and perching birds are closely related.

Links between the bird orders have proved extremely difficult to determine, and except for intelligence and a facility for learning songs, there is nothing about perching birds, which include honeyeaters, crows and sparrows, to suggest they are related to parrots. Their beaks and feet are very different.

The evidence that emerged was genetic, but some genetic studies did not find this relationship, so in my book Where Song Began I equivocated, describing the relationship as probable but not proven.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Jillian Berding says #
    Brilliant account about birds on the ABC Catalyst . My daughter and I we pushing strollers on our property and a Major Mitchell Co
  • Michael Cunningham says #
    Hi Tim, well said! It may possibly be THE bird research of the century but it won't hold that title long. Where Jarvis and colleag
  • Aidan Kelly says #
    great summary - thank you - the DNA jigsaw is fascinating, the unlocking of the stories of evolution is the reward.