Hummingbird family tree’s rapid change is coming with the research of hummingbird species, currently existing in the Americas only, as stated by the biology team of researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, for International Business Times. Hummingbirds have evolved in a rapid rate for the last 22 million years of existence.
The University of California biologists spent 10 years understanding the hummingbird habitat, and have analyzed 284 of the 338 currently known species. They are currently in the process of diversification and documenting the changes that happened for the last 42 million years, as commented in the International Business Times. Jim McGuire, part of the research team, adds that hummingbirds have been reinventing themselves in their 22 million year journey.
As Reuters states, the hummingbirds at the smallest warm-blooded animals and the smallest birds on Earth. “They are the only birds that can fly backwards, and animals with the fast heart rate. They can fly in any direction, even if the wind is strong, and they have the highest energy consumption per gram of any animal. They have sparkling colors and are beautiful under the proper light exposure,” Christopher Witt says, a biologist from the research team from the University of Mexico.”They come in all kinds of shapes and colors, with the males being more noticeable than the females.”
Reuters continues that the researchers have constructed a hummingbird’s family tree and have divided all 338 species into 9 groups. The groups differ in size, habitat, feeding, and body shape. McGuire says for the Phys Journal that the coolest thing is how hummingbirds were rapidly evolving and extending their nectavoire niche. They are able to co-exist with each other for up to 25 species in an area, even when food is scarce. McGuire says that is the case because different bird species have specialized in different types of flower nectars.
The ancestral species, as the new evolutionary tree says, probably began shifting off 42 million years ago in Eurasia. The first fossil evidence is found in South America from 22 million years ago. As Life Science Journal mentions, researchers began to thing that the hummingbirds began migrating in North America instead of flying through the ocean to Europe.
Phys Journal adds that the most common place for hummingbirds today are the Andes Mountains, where 140 species are known. Land areas in North America and the Caribbean have played an important role. McGuire says that 5 million years ago the bee hummingbirds colonized North America and have experienced undergoing changes of speciation. Researchers hope to understand how the history of the hummingbird family tree’s rapid change and how they have adopted to the mountainous areas with low oxygen. The lineage is far from complete, the biology team writes.
Life Science Journal says that the hummingbirds were evolving fast, but due to the human activities, they are slowing. But even with that, McGuire says that hummingbirds are still one of the most diversified species on the planet, and they will continue to evolve. His team has published the research for Biology Today, explaining their findings in detail of the hummingbird family tree’s rapid change.
By Marija Makeska