Research highlight

Rearranging the bird tree of life

Nature Communications

August 24, 2011

Parrots are the closest living relatives of passerines — or perching birds — reports a paper in this week’s Nature Communications. This new phylogenetic relationship suggests that birdsong could have evolved in the common ancestor of parrots and passerines 30 million years earlier than previously thought.

Alexander Suh and colleagues studied gene inheritance and relatedness in bird evolution during the Mesozoic Era, 250 to 〜65 million years ago. According to this data it is likely that vocal learning evolved in the parrot and passerine ancestor, which places the emergence of vocal learning of songbirds at least 30 million years earlier than what is suggested by previous evidence.

doi: 10.1038/ncomms1448

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