A bird that had previously become extinct came back to life thanks to a rare evolutionary process known as "iterative evolution".
The white-throated railway bird can now be found on the island of Aldabra. The first fossils of birds suggest that they lived there thousands of years ago and became extinct because they could not fly to higher ground when the rise in sea level threatened their safety. But thanks to "iterative evolution", which evolves similar body parts due to the genetics of a similar ancestor, the bird returned from the dead.
"We do not know of any other example on rails, or birds in general, that demonstrates this phenomenon so clearly," study co-author, University of Portsmouth professor David Martill, said in a statement. "Aldabra alone, which has the oldest paleontological record of any oceanic island within the Indian Ocean region, is available fossil evidence that demonstrates the effects of sea level change on extinction and recolonization events."
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The study summary gives details about how it happened. "A non-flying Dryolimnas of two temporarily separated fossils of Aldabran has been identified, deposited before and after the flood event, providing irrefutable evidence that a member of Rallidae colonized the atoll, probably from Madagascar, and became flightless independently. every occasion, "reads the summary. "The fossil evidence presented here is unique to Rallidae and personifies the ability of the birds of this clade to successfully colonize isolated islands and evolve without flight on multiple occasions."
The research has been published in the scientific journal, Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.
To make the determination that the extinct bird had evolved thanks to iterative evolution, they observed fossils from 100,000 years ago, after sea levels began to fall during the last Ice Age. When inspecting the fossils, the wing bone showed "an advanced state of absence of flight", while the ankle bone showed properties that would suggest that it was evolving towards the absence of flight.
Lane of white throat. (Credit: Charles J Sharp)
It was determined that the species in Madagascar gave rise to two different species that lived on the isolated island of Aldabra, both in the space of a few thousand years.
"These unique fossils provide irrefutable evidence that a member of the railroad family colonized the atoll, probably from Madagascar, and became an independent flight each time," added Dr. Julian Hume, the study's principal investigator, in the statement. . "The fossil evidence presented here is unique to the rails, and represents the ability of these birds to successfully colonize isolated islands and evolve without flight on multiple occasions."
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