Great Spotted Woodpeckers are one species said to have descended from an apex predator
The genomes of modern birds reveal how they emerged and evolved after the mass extinction that wiped out dinosaurs 66 million years ago, reports Smithsonian Science.
The family tree of modern birds has long been the subject of debate and the evolution of our more than 10,000 species has not been known.
Now a four-year international collaboration involving more than 200 scientists from 80 institutions in 20 countries has sequenced, assembled and compared full genomes of 48 bird species.
The first findings of the Avian Phylogenomics Consortium led by Guojie Zhang of the National Genebank at BGI in China and the University of Copenhagen, Erich D Jarvis of Duke University and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Thomas P Gilbert of the Natural History Museum of Denmark, suggests some remarkable new ideas about bird evolution.
The consortium focused on species representing all major branches of modern birds including the crow, duck, falcon, parakeet, crane, ibis, woodpecker and eagle.
The first flagship paper published in Science presents a new family tree for birds, based on whole-genome data.
The new family tree resolves the early branches of Neoaves (new birds) and supports conclusions about some relationships that have been long-debated.