Scientists have for the first time discovered a general shift in diets across an entire group of animals while studying birds on the Galapagos islands that once helped inspire Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.
The Spanish-led team observed 19 of the 23 species of Galapagos land birds visiting flowers to eat nectar and pollen, apparently because their preferred foods of seeds or insects are in short supply on the remote Pacific islands off Ecuador.
The taste for flowers among Galapagos birds had gone unnoticed until now.
“The whole bird community expanded its niche and included floral rewards into the diet,” the scientists wrote in an edition of the journal Nature Communications published this week.
“This phenomenon... has been previously reported for single species but never for an entire community,” they wrote.
The birds the scientists studied over four years visited more than 100 types of flower and included finches, mockingbirds and flycatchers.