In a landmark study that researched the origins of bird species, evolutionary biologists have made discoveries about the age of birds, and the genomic relationships among modern birds. The genomes of modern birds tell a story: today’s winged rulers of the skies emerged and evolved after the mass extinction that wiped out dinosaurs and almost everything else 66 million years ago. That story is now coming to light, thanks to an international collaboration that has been underway for four years.
Scientists already knew that the birds who survived the mass extinction experienced a rapid burst of evolution. But the family tree of modern birds has confused biologists for centuries, and the molecular details of how birds arrived at the spectacular biodiversity of more than 10,000 species was barely known. David Mindell, an evolutionary biologist and program director of the NSF Division of Environmental Biology discusses the study’s findings.