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Study Shows That The First Tree-Dwelling Birds Went Extinct With Dinosaurs

The asteroid that killed dinosaurs 66 million years ago, also led to the extinction of the first tree-dwelling birds, finds a study.

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Skeleton of a dinosaur, pixabay
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The asteroid that killed dinosaurs 66 million years ago, also led to the extinction of the first tree-dwelling birds, finds a study.

The asteroid that crashed to Earth with a force one million times more than the largest atomic bomb decimated the planet’s forests as well as its canopies.

With no more perches, the perching birds went extinct. The ones that are alive today are descendants of a handful of ground-dwelling species, like modern ground birds such as kiwis and emus, the researchers said.

“The temporary elimination of forests in the aftermath of the asteroid impact explains why arboreal birds failed to survive across this extinction event,” said lead author Daniel Field, from the Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath, UK.

“The ancestors of modern arboreal birds did not move into the trees until forests had recovered from the extinction-causing asteroid.

“Only a handful of ancestral bird lineages succeeded in surviving the mass extinction event 66 million years ago, and all of today’s amazing living bird diversity can be traced to these ancient survivors,” Field added.

This fossil provides a unique insight into how crocodiles began evolving into dolphin and killer whale-like forms more than 180 million years ago," said Mark Young, of the University of Edinburgh's School of GeoSciences in Britain.
Dinosaur Fossil. pixabay

The study, appearing in the journal Current Biology, determined the destruction of the world’s forests, by looking at microscopic fossils of pollen and spores.

The fossil record immediately after the asteroid hit shows the charcoal remains of burnt trees, and then, tons of fern spores, the researchers said.

“Our study examined the fossil record from New Zealand, Japan, Europe and North America, which showed there was a mass deforestation across the globe at the end of the Cretaceous period,” said Antoine Bercovici, pollen expert at the Smithsonian Institution and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

With no more trees, the tree-dwelling birds went extinct. The birds that did manage to survive were ground-dwellers — birds whose fossilised remains show longer, sturdier legs like we see in modern ground birds like kiwis and emus.

Though the dinosaurs and their perching bird neighbours died 66 million years ago, their plight is relevant today, the researchers noted.

Did Dinosaurs Evolve Frills And Horns to Attract Mates?

“The end-Cretaceous event is the fifth mass extinction — we’re in the sixth,” Dunn said.

“It’s important for us to understand what happens when you destroy an ecosystem, like with deforestation and climate change — so we can know how our actions will affect what comes after us,” Dunn noted. (IANS)

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Scientists Try To Map Animal Genes To Save Them From Extinction Down the Line

The project has similarities with the Earth BioGenome Project, which seeks to catalog the genomes for 1.5 million species.

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This undated photo provided by NOAA Fisheries, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, shows alewives, a species of river herring in North Kingstown, R.I. The federal government's National Marine Fisheries Service is looking at the health of the populations of alewives and blueback herring to see if the little fish should be listed under the Endangered Species Act. VOA

A group of scientists unveiled the first results Thursday of an ambitious effort to map the genes of tens of thousands of animal species, a project they said could help save animals from extinction down the line.

The scientists are working with the Genome 10,000 consortium on the Vertebrate Genomes Project, which is seeking to map the genomes of all 66,000 species of mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian and fish on Earth. Genome 10,000 has members at more than 50 institutions around the globe, and the Vertebrate Genomes Project last year.

The consortium Thursday released the first 15 such maps, ranging from the Canada lynx to the kakapo, a flightless parrot native to New Zealand.

Future conservation

The genome is the entire set of genetic material that is present in an organism. The release of the first sets is “a statement to the world that what we want to accomplish is indeed feasible,” said Harris Lewin, a professor of evolution at University of California, Davis, who is working on the project.

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The work is intriguing because it could inform future conservation efforts of jeopardized species. VOA

“The time has come, but of course it’s only the beginning,” Lewin said.

The work will help inform future conservation of jeopardized species, scientists working on the project said. The first 14 species to be mapped also include the duck-billed platypus, two bat species and the zebra finch. The zebra finch was the one species for which both sexes were mapped, bringing the total to 15.

Sequencing the genome of tens of thousands of animals could easily take 10 years, said Sadye Paez, program director for the project. But giving scientists access to this kind of information could help save rare species because it would give conservationists and biologists a new set of tools, she said.

Paez described the project as an effort to “essentially communicate a library of life.”

Three sequencing hubs

Tanya Lama, a doctoral candidate in environmental conservation at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, coordinated the effort to sequence the lynx genome. The wild cat is the subject of debate about its conservation status in the United States, and better understanding of genetics can better protect its future, Lama said.

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Genome 10,000 has members at more than 50 institutions around the globe, and the Vertebrate Genomes Project last year. Pixabay

“It’s going to help us plan for the future, help us generate tools for monitoring population health, and help us inform conservation strategy,” she said.

The project has three “genome sequencing hubs,” including Rockefeller University in New York, the Sanger Institute outside Cambridge, England, and the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden, Germany, organizers said.

The work is intriguing because it could inform future conservation efforts of jeopardized species, said Mollie Matteson, a senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity who is not involved in the project. More information about animals’ genetics could lead to better understanding of how animals resist disease or cope with changes in the environment, she said.

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Sequencing the genome of tens of thousands of animals could easily take 10 years, said Sadye Paez, program director for the project. Pixabay

“I think what’s interesting to me from a conservation aspect is just what we might be able to discern about the genetic diversity within a species,” Matteson said.

Also Read: British Scientists Use Sunlight And Convert it to Fuel

The project has similarities with the Earth BioGenome Project, which seeks to catalog the genomes for 1.5 million species. Lewin chairs that project’s working group. The Vertebrate Genomes Project will contribute to that effort. (VOA)