Date:February 3, 2020
Source:University of Bristol
Darwin's finches are among the most celebrated examples of adaptive radiation in the evolution of modern vertebrates and now a new study, led by scientists from the University of Bristol, has provided fresh insights into their rapid development and evolutionary success.
Study of the finches has been relevant since the journeys of the HMS Beagle in the 18th century which catalysed some of the first ideas about natural selection in the mind of a young Charles Darwin.
Despite many years of research which has led to a detailed understanding of the biology of these perching birds, including impressive decades-long studies in natural populations, there are still unanswered questions.
Specifically, the factors explaining why this particular group of birds evolved to be much more diverse in species and shapes than other birds evolving alongside them in Galapagos and Cocos islands have remained largely unknown.
A similar phenomenon is that of the honeycreepers endemic to the Hawaiian archipelago. These true finches (unlike Darwin's finches which are finch-like birds belonging to a different family) radiated to achieve an order of magnitude more in species and shapes than the rest of the birds inhabiting those islands.