APRIL 1, 2019
Scientists have reconstructed the tree of life for all major lineages of perching birds, also known as passerines, a large and diverse group of more than 6,000 species that includes familiar birds like cardinals, warblers, jays and sparrows. Louisiana State University (LSU) researchers led the massive project using 221 bird specimens from 48 countries, including 56 tissue samples from the LSU Museum of Natural Science's Collection of Genetic Resources. Using these samples, they extracted and sequenced DNA representing all passerine families, and they used these sequence data to understand how passerine species are related and to study when and how passerines diversified in relation to Earth's history.
"In addition to inferring how these species are related, our in-depth study found that changes in global temperature or colonization of new continents were not the sole drivers of passerine diversification, as previously suggested. Instead, our results indicate more complex mechanisms were at play to spark bursts of passerine speciation around the globe," said lead author Carl Oliveros, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Biological Sciences at LSU.