The Bizarre Bird That’s Breaking the Tree of Life

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The Bizarre Bird That’s Breaking the Tree of Life

Ben Crair

Quote:DNA research has not solved the mysteries of the hoatzin; it has deepened them. One 2014 analysis suggested that the bird’s closest living relatives are cranes and shorebirds such as gulls and plovers. Another, in 2020, concluded that this clumsy flier is a sister species to a group that includes tiny, hovering hummingbirds and high-speed swifts. “Frankly, there is no one in the world who knows what hoatzins are,” Cracraft, who is now a member of B10K, said. The hoatzin may be more than a missing piece of the evolutionary puzzle. It may be a sphinx with a riddle that many biologists are reluctant to consider: What if the pattern of evolution is not actually a tree?

Quote:Hoatzins—“in some respects the most aberrant of birds,” according to one Victorian ornithologist—were a problem from the beginning. Early European naturalists described them as pheasants, and the first major tree for birds, published in 1888 by Max Fürbringer, placed them on the fowl branch. But, by the early nineteen-hundreds, some scientists were comparing hoatzins and cuckoos on the basis of traits such as jaws and feathers, and others were noting similarities between hoatzins and turacos, pigeons, barn owls, and rails. Even the hoatzin’s parasites defied classification: they hosted feather lice found on no other birds.

Quote:In 2001, a paper in the Proceedings of the Royal Society identified a pair of bird siblings as unlikely as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito: the flamingo’s closest relative was a little diving bird called a grebe. “That was probably the single most astounding result that anybody’s ever gotten,” Peter Houde, an avian biologist from New Mexico State University, told me. Ornithologists had always reasoned that grebes were closely related to short-legged loons, whereas tall wading birds such as flamingos, storks, and herons probably had a long-legged common ancestor.

That was the first domino to fall...
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell

[-] The following 4 users Like Sciborg_S_Patel's post:
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I'm not sure the tree of life wasn't already broken

However this is a really interesting addition to the evidence.
[-] The following 4 users Like Brian's post:
  • Sciborg_S_Patel, Ninshub, tim, Typoz

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