Connect with us

News

The Bizarre Bird That’s Breaking the Tree of Life

Published

on

when Josefin Stiller was growing up in Berlin, she loved reading about Greek gods in an encyclopedia of mythology. She often lost track of their relationships, however—their feuds, trysts, and betrayals—as she flipped among the entries. Frustrated, she wrote each name on a card and started to arrange children beneath parents on a desk in her bedroom. As lineages became clear, so did family dramas. Sons killed fathers; uncles kidnapped nieces; siblings fell in love. “I wonder if this experience of reconstructing a family tree primed me to appreciate trees and the powerful insights they hold,” Stiller told me in a recent e-mail.

Years later, as a graduate student in biology, Stiller worked on an evolutionary tree for seahorses and their relatives, using DNA to understand the ancestry of different species. Then, in 2017, she moved to the University of Copenhagen and joined B10K, a scientific collaboration that aims to sequence the genome of every bird species—more than ten thousand in all—and to reveal their connections in a comprehensive tree. The amount of data and computing power required for this mission is almost unfathomable, but the final product should be as simple in principle as the diagram Stiller had assembled as a child. “Everything in biology has a history, and we can show this history as a bifurcating tree,” she said.

Birds are the most diverse vertebrates on land, and they have always been central to ideas about the natural world. In 1837, a taxonomist in London told Charles Darwin that the finches he had shot and carelessly lumped together in the Galápagos Islands were, in fact, many different species. Darwin wondered whether the finches might have shared a common ancestor from mainland South America—whether all of life might have evolved through a process of “descent with modification”—and he drew a rudimentary tree in his private notebook, beneath the words “I think.” The tree showed how a single ancestral population could branch into many species, each with its own evolutionary path. “On the Origin of Species,” published twenty-two years later, includes only one diagram: an evolutionary tree. The tree of life became for biology what the periodic table was for chemistry—both a foundation and an emblem for the field. “The time will come I believe, though I shall not live to see it, when we shall have fairly true genealogical trees of each great kingdom of nature,” Darwin wrote to a friend.

The rise of genome sequencing, at the turn of the twenty-first century, seemed to bring Darwin’s dream within reach. “It is now realistic to conceive of reconstructing the entire Tree of Life—eventually to include all of the living and extinct species,” Joel Cracraft, the curator of birds at the American Museum of Natural History, wrote, in 2004. The naturalist E. O. Wilson predicted that such a tree could unify biology. Its value to such fields as agriculture, conservation, and medicine would be incalculable; evolutionary trees have already deepened our understanding of sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes covid-19. By mapping a major branch on the tree of life, B10K aims to light the way.

When Stiller joined the project, her colleagues were combing through museums and laboratories to sample three hundred and sixty-three bird species, chosen carefully to represent the diversity of living birds. With help from four supercomputers in three different countries, they began to compare each bird’s DNA to figure out how they were related. “I think there was always this idea that, once we sequence full genomes, we will be able to solve it,” Stiller told me. But, early in the process, she encountered an evolutionary enigma called Opisthocomus hoazin. “I was completely amazed by this bird,” she said.

Hoatzins, which live along oxbow lakes in tropical South America, have blood-red eyes, blue cheeks, and crests of spiky auburn feathers. Their chicks have primitive claws on their tiny wings and respond to danger by plunging into water and then clawing their way back to their nests—a trait that inspired some ornithologists to link them to dinosaurs. Other taxonomists argued that the hoatzin is closely related to pheasants, cuckoos, pigeons, and a group of African birds called turacos. Alejandro Grajal, the director of Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, said that the bird looks like a “punk-rock chicken,” and smells like manure because it digests leaves through bacterial fermentation, similar to a cow.

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?

Fossils that resemble hoatzins have been found in Europe and Africa, but today the birds can be found only in the river basins of the Amazon and Orinoco of South America. I live in Germany, so I visited them in Berlin’s Museum of Natural History, where cabinets are filled with thousands of stuffed birds. Sylke Frahnert, the bird curator, kept two taxidermy hoatzins on a shelf near the cuckoos and turacos, which seems as good a place as any. Over the years, there have been so many conflicting trees of birds, she told me. “You would have been crazy to change the collection with every one.” One of the museum’s hoatzins was shot in Brazil more than two centuries ago, and the years have drained the color from its face. I had heard that even the specimens smell like manure, but Frahnert warned me not to sniff them, since birds were once preserved with arsenic.

In the eighteenth century, natural-history museums started using anatomical similarities to classify plants and animals into increasingly specific categories: class, order, family, genus, species. Darwin realized that species share traits because their ancestors were one and the same. Fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals all have spines, but not because God had given them to each creature separately; rather, the spine suggested a “common parent” living long ago. The construction of evolutionary trees was dubbed “phylogeny,” literally meaning “the generation of species,” by the zoologist Ernst Haeckel. The more traits two species shared, the theory went, the more recently they had shared a common ancestor. Human beings and other great apes evolved from a common ancestor millions of years ago, but even human beings and bacteria have a common ancestor—the first known living organisms, which date to three and a half billion years ago.

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.

One crucial problem in phylogeny was convergent evolution. Sometimes natural selection nudges two organisms toward the same trait. Birds and bats independently evolved the ability to fly. Swifts and swallows each evolved into aerodynamic insectivores with nearly identical silhouettes, but traits such as their vocal organs and foot bones reveal that they are only distantly related. Because taxonomists often disagreed about things such as how to distinguish common ancestry from convergent evolution, the literature grew thick with conflicting trees, to the point that some twentieth-century biologists seemed ready to give up. “The construction of phylogenetic trees has opened the door to a wave of uninhibited speculation,” one wrote in 1959. “Science ends where comparative morphology, comparative physiology, comparative ethology have failed us.”

Phylogeny made a comeback in the seventies and eighties, after the German entomologist Willi Hennig developed more rigorous criteria for identifying common ancestry and drawing evolutionary trees. These innovations laid a foundation for a new wave of research that did not rely solely on physical specimens but, rather, on the emerging science of DNA. “Organisms are related to one another by the degree to which they share genetic information,” two ornithologists wrote in the early nineties, adding that genetics could reveal “a different view of the process of evolution and its effects.” The typical bird genome is a string of more than a billion base pairs that mutate randomly over time. Scientists can compare the same parts of the genome across multiple species to estimate their evolutionary closeness. Typically, species that share mutations have a more recent common ancestor, and species that do not are more distantly related.

Early sequencing was expensive and tedious, but, by the beginning of the twenty-first century, a signal was emerging from the noise. The journal Nature published an article about the promise of a single unified tree of life. But its author also identified a complication: each genome contains many different genes, and each one could generate a different evolutionary tree.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

News

Owner of iPhonix mobile Abhishek Balsara offers iPhones at the best rates

Published

on

Owner of iPhonix mobile Abhishek Balsara offers iPhones at the best rates

iPhonix mobile

The iPhone can be an expensive option for some, but its price covers all the requirements of a person’s life and it is completely reliable. With an iPhone, you probably don’t need any other external devices.
These days, people are very careful about what they buy and what they wear, and depending on the trend, they also pay attention to the type of purchase. As the world of technology evolves, so does the demand for more functionality. This is the reason why the iPhone has become so popular in India and is currently the longest running phone that competes with Android.

Abhishek Balsara

To be precise, the iPhone is admired by almost everyone because it not only looks good but also has essential features that are really useful for the people who use it. Also, there have been a lot of updates as the company has been waiting for what people actually find useful and necessary in a phone. The iPhone may be an expensive option for some, but its price is completely reliable as it covers all the requirements of a person’s life. . With an iPhone, you probably don’t need any other external devices. You can trust him and his tasks so you never have to worry again.

The price range is usually a big problem for people, but today we will talk about the people and their institutions that make these smartphones very cheap and affordable. This is the only store that offers the latest genuine iPhones at the lowest prices and no other store offers similar products and services. It has been around for a long time and can be completely trusted due to its solid reputation and the great reviews it has collected over the years.

iPhonix Mobile is completely customer focused and has provided unmatched customer service for a long time, earning people’s trust and admiration. So come on, if you want the perfect smartphone, you know where to go. Not only is it the latest trend in the market, but it is also very affordable.

Please visit iPhonix Mobile at the link below for the latest product information. Be the first to get it!

Continue Reading

News

How to Find an Obituary for a Specific Person

Published

on

How to Find an Obituary for a Specific Person

As part of your family tree or ancestry research, you may need to find the obituary of a particular person. This article provides a list of resources to help find the obituary of a particular person.

Obituaries are one of the most important sources of information genealogists look for when looking for clues related to the life of their ancestors. What many may not know is that the practice of announcing death in this way dates back to 59 BC.

Roman newspapers inscribed in metal or stone, known as the Acta Diurna (Daily Events), are published in important places in Rome. It features celebrity births and deaths, as well as general gossip about important people in the city.

In 1439, the printing press was invented, and with the advent of newspapers, the practice of announcing prominent deaths continued.This has survived and is still a common practice.

So why do genealogies need obituaries, and more importantly

, how do you find the obituaries you need for your research?

Importance of obituaries


relatives and friends
Those with aging parents or who lived with grandparents may have sat and read the local newspaper to see if anyone they knew had died. As we grow older, we feel a morbid fascination with our own mortality, and as a result, we become fascinated by the people we meet and those who are close to our own age.

An obituary is an opportunity for families to let people they don’t know know that a loved one has died. In many cases, this allows family members to let people know when the funeral will be held, and old friends to attend and offer their condolences.

Obituaries serve an important social function. Because bereaved families don’t have to spend time grieving connecting with everyone the deceased loved one may have known.

genealogist
Although obituaries are very important to genealogists, they are technically not considered definitive documentary evidence. Searching for ancestors in obituaries can help you find important information such as:

close relatives
Religion and Church Affiliation
date of birth and place of birth
place of death and date of death
former job


important biographical information


The family information provided in the obituary helps distinguish between the two of her namesakes in official documents. Knowing the names of siblings and parents makes it easier to determine a person’s accurate census record.
As with any mystery, there may be many small clues here to help you find the truth and the documents that support it. should always be taken as clues until further evidence is documented.

Continue Reading

News

Cost increases faced with end of Adjusted Right to Rent checks

Published

on

Cost increases faced with end of Adjusted Right to Rent checks

Rental agents are taking significant steps to comply with rental eligibility checks as the system allowing for coordinated checks (for example via Zoom calls and copies of documents) will end in the UK on 30 September of 2022. We are facing increasing costs.

From October 1, 2022, agents responsible for reapplying for tenants and rent checks will need to review their processes to be ready to return to manual in-person checks (this may be because someone who qualifies as a UK resident you will still be admitted if you present a valid ID). and Irish citizens), or register with one of the proptech service providers accredited by the UK government as a Digital Identity Service Provider (IDSP). Foreign checks must be processed through the Ministry of the Interior’s Sharecode system, to which agents have free access.

The change comes at the same time that agencies will have to deal with rising energy bills and rising staff retention costs by maintaining competitive compensation packages.

IDSP cost for British and Irish citizens
With the announcement of the first IDSP under the UK’s digital identity and attribute trust framework, agents need to be aware of and prepare for the upcoming changes. With the promulgation of the Tenant Fees Act 2019, the costs associated with the delivery of checks for the right to rent have not changed and cannot be passed on to applicants.

Coordinated checks were introduced as part of COVID-19 measures to reduce face-to-face contact and have been expanded as the Home Office works to implement a robust digital solution for national checks in the UK and Ireland. If an agent wishes to provide digital checks to people with ID cards in the UK and Ireland, once adjusted rental eligibility verification is complete, the agent will need to register with an ID service provider who will incur a fee for the service. Alternatively, agents can provide a manual verification in person if the applicant provides a suitable British or Irish ID. If an agent chooses to use IDSPs, they must take into account UK and Irish citizens who choose to verify their identity offline and must not discriminate on that basis.

Digital verifications for foreigners can be done easily and at no external cost by verifying through the home office system in real time using the common digital code and date of birth provided by the applicant.

If the agency’s system relies primarily on in-person reviews, consider the need for additional time and resources to schedule appointments for applicant reviews (and follow-up reviews of submitters, subject to time constraints). status) and the associated time change.

Keeping track of rent checks is more important than ever
Propertymark members notify the Home Office to establish a “legal excuse” for agents to provide statutory audit information if they are unable to obtain a foreign rent check again during the rental period. against late and/or civil penalties.

The Rental Law Code of Practice is ambiguous about liability for civil penalties when agents use IDSPs. The ultimate responsibility for verification rests with the landlord or designated rental agent. Therefore, the use of a UK government accredited IDSP does not eliminate all risks of civil penalties for landlords or designated rental agents when investigated by immigration authorities.

The reintroduction of personal checks coincided with seasonal changes in the incidence of COVID, the impact of which is unknown.

Since it was first introduced under immigration law in 2014, the work required for agents to complete rent checks in the UK has increased dramatically and there are now over 100 pages of instructions for agents to understand. years. The Rent Payments Act of 2019 forced agents to incur higher costs in this area.

A period of additional requirements is coming, whether agents continue to conduct in-person rental checks during application and follow-up or use one of our approved IDSP providers. This is a particular problem given the heightened scrutiny of students who are British citizens from the academic year onwards.

Continue Reading

Trending