June 5, 2023
Science News |  Diving birds most vulnerable to extinction: Scientists |  Last

Science News | Diving birds most vulnerable to extinction: Scientists | Last

Washington [US], Dec 25 (ANI): According to a recent study by the Milner Center for Evolution at the University of Bath, diving species such as penguins, puffins and cormorants may be more vulnerable to extinction than non-diving birds. The authors hypothesize that this is due to their extreme specialization, which makes them less able than other birds to adapt to changing conditions.

Less than a third of the 727 species of waterfowl use diving as a foraging method, making diving a relatively uncommon trait in birds.

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Evolutionary scientists Joshua Tyler and Dr Jane Younger studied the evolution of diving in modern waterfowl to investigate the impact of diving: birds’ physical characteristics (morphology). how the species evolved to increase diversity (rate of speciation); and how prone the species was to extinction.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, found that diving evolved independently 14 times and that once a group had evolved the ability to dive, subsequent evolution did not reverse that trait.

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The researchers found that body size among diving birds had evolved differently depending on the type of dive they did.

Fin divers, such as penguins and puffins, use their wings to propel themselves through the water. These birds tend to have larger body sizes adapted for swimming.

“Foot-diving” birds, such as cormorants, kick their feet to swim and are just as large in body size as winged divers.

In contrast, so-called “plunge divers,” such as gulls and terns, dive vertically out of the air to catch their prey. The researchers found that these species tended to be more limited in their body size, as they were better adapted to flying than swimming.

While the research found no significant difference in the notification rate for diving birds versus non-diving species, it also found that many diving birds appeared to be more vulnerable to extinction than non-diving species.

The techniques used by the researchers could be used to help ecologists predict which species are most at risk of extinction from an evolutionary perspective.

Josh Tyler, the paper’s first author and a PhD student at the Milner Center for Evolution at the University of Bath, said: “Our work shows that rather than being a random process, there are predictable patterns in evolution.”

“Waterfowl were grouped together as very closely related after genetic analysis of the bird family tree in 2015, so I wanted to investigate how the evolution of diving ability had affected their body shape, niche adaptation and evolutionary diversity,” he said.

“For example, penguins are highly adapted to their environment — they have a torpedo shape that helps them swim fast, but they don’t fly and can’t move as well on land. This means that they cannot easily adapt to other environments or foods. In contrast, divers like gulls are more generalist — they eat anything from fish to Cornish pasties — and we’ve found that they’re exploding in diversity,” he said.

“Our data show that specialized birds face a greater problem in terms of future extinction and may develop into an evolutionary dead end,” he added. (A I)

(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from the News Syndicate feed, LatestLY Staff may not have modified or edited the body of content)

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