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Falcons, Parrots, The Tree of Life

Surprise evolutionary cousins
© KJFMiller/Tom Grey View Large

Scientists have puzzled for centuries over how different groups of birds are related. Did birds that look physically alike, such as falcons and hawks, arise from a common ancestor, or did they reach those similarities independently? This line of inquiry was given an immense boost in recent years when an international research team unraveled the genetic codes of 48 species of birds. The results are emerging, including a revised evolutionary tree for birds that places falcons such as this American Kestrel (right) — and parrots such as this Rainbow Lorikeet (left) — on adjoining branches.

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Transcript: 
BirdNote®

Falcons, Parrots, and the Tree of Life
Written by Bob Sundstrom
This is BirdNote. [Peregrine Falcon call, wing-flapping sound: http://macaulaylibrary.org/audio/137573, 0.59-1.05]
The Peregrine Falcon is a quintessential bird of prey. It has highly specialized hunting anatomy it shares with hawks and eagles, long considered the falcon's close relatives. There's the keen eyesight, the lethal-looking hooked beak, and the strong, sharp, grasping talons. So it comes as a stunning surprise that recent DNA research has perched the falcon closest on the evolutionary tree to parrots. Not eagles. [Mealy Parrot calls, http://macaulaylibrary.org/audio/74981, 0.06-0.09.]
Scientists have puzzled for centuries over how different groups of birds are related. Did birds that look physically alike, such as falcons and hawks, arise from a common ancestor, or did they reach those similarities independently? This line of inquiry was given an immense boost in recent years when international research team unraveled the full genetic codes of 48 species of birds. Groundbreaking new findings are pouring forth, among them a newly revised evolutionary tree for birds that places falcons [Peregrine Falcon call, ending in wing-flapping sound: http://macaulaylibrary.org/audio/137573, 0.59-1.05] and parrots on adjoining branches. [Mealy Parrot calls, http://macaulaylibrary.org/audio/74981, 0.06-0.09.]
The bird genome research will likely generate new insights into the evolution of birds for years to come. So listen for more stories about the "tree of life" at BirdNote.org.
For BirdNote, I'm Mary McCann.
                                                                             
 ###
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Peregrine Falcon call [137573] recorded by Gerrit Vyn. Mealy Parrot calls [74981] re-corded by Curtis A Marantz.  
BirdNote's theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Dominic Black
© 2015 Tune In to Nature.org    February 2015   Narrator: Mary McCann
ID#              falcon-parrot-01-2015-01-04 falcon-parrot-01

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