As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Bird evolution in Asia shaped in part by giant plateau, study finds

Colorado Arts and Science Magazine Highlight 


A new large-scale study from CU Boulder and colleagues provides first evidence that a gargantuan, inhospitable plateau in Asia maintains the species barriers of some birds​ 

In the middle of Asia, there is a vast, high-altitude desert that not only helped shape the evolution of barn swallows—and likely other birds, too—but continues to keep them distinct by altering migration paths, according to new research from the University of Colorado Boulder. 

These new findings, published this week in the journal Ecology Letters, provide the most-convincing evidence yet for a long-held hypothesis that the Tibetan plateau is an important catalyst and maintainer of the vast diversity of birds found in Asia. It does this by being a barrier that keeps them separate, sending some migrating birds to Africa and others to south and southeast Asia. 

“What we’re getting is a really consistent snapshot that different subspecies (of barn swallows), when they come together, are responding in the same way to a major geographic barrier,” said Rebecca Safran, an associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado Boulder and a senior author on the paper. 

“It suggests that there’s something universal about that place on planet Earth that at least different subspecies of barn swallows are responding to by migrating in different directions above it.” 

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