Phylogenomics and Morphology of Extinct Paleognaths Reveal the Origin and Evolution of the Ratites

Journal: Current Biology

Published: 2017-01-09

DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.10.029

Affiliations: 22

Authors: 26

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Research Highlight

Ostrich’s ancestor was airborne

© Photo by Bobby-Jo Clow/Moment/Getty

© Photo by Bobby-Jo Clow/Moment/Getty

The southerly stomping grounds of ostriches and emus may have been first the landing post of a small bird that flew in from North America.

Flightless birds, or ratites, are thought to have originated on Gondwana, the supercontinent that broke up into the land masses of the Southern Hemisphere. An international team, including a researcher from The Kyushu University Museum, have established an evolutionary tree of the ratites using DNA fragments from a fossil, found in Madagascar, of the extinct elephant bird, a giant ratite. They found physical and genetic similarities between the elephant bird and a much smaller bird species, Lithornis, whose fossils, found in North America and Europe, predate those of the monstrous elephant bird.

The evolutionary tree places Lithornis as a common ancestor of ratites. It had functional wings so could have flown overseas from the North to the Southern Hemisphere where it eventually evolved into ostriches and emus, the authors suggest.

Supported content

  1. Current Biology 27, 68-77 (2017). doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.10.029
Institutions FC WFC
National Institute of Polar Research (NIPR), ROIS, Japan 0.10 0.10
The University Museum, UTokyo, Japan 0.09 0.09
School of Life Sciences, Fudan University, China 0.08 0.08
School of Advanced Sciences, Sokendai, Japan 0.08 0.08
Department of Biological Information, Tokyo Tech, Japan 0.08 0.08
Yamashina Institute for Ornithology, Japan 0.07 0.07
Faculty / Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences (GSALS), UTokyo, Japan 0.06 0.06
Centre for GeoGenetics (CGG), UCPH, Denmark 0.05 0.05
Institute of Statistical Mathematics (ISM), ROIS, Japan 0.04 0.04
The Kyushu University Museum, Japan 0.04 0.04
Faculté des Sciences, Université d'Antananarivo, Madagascar 0.04 0.04
Faculty of Veterinary Science, NVLU, Japan 0.04 0.04
National Museum of Nature and Science (Kahaku), Japan 0.04 0.04
Faculty of Education and Culture and Graduate School of Education, University of Miyazaki, Japan 0.04 0.04
Department of Biological Sciences, Tokyo Tech, Japan 0.04 0.04
Faculty / Graduate School of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Tsukuba, Japan 0.02 0.02
Tokyo University of Information Sciences, Japan 0.02 0.02
The Research Institute of Evolutionary Biology, Japan 0.02 0.02
Center for Life Science Research, University of Yamanashi, Japan 0.02 0.02
Interdisciplinary Centre of Marine and Environmental Research (CIIMAR), UP, Portugal 0.01 0.01
Centro de Investigación en Ciencias del Mar y Limnología (CIMAR), UP, Portugal 0.01 0.01
Tokyo University of Agriculture, Japan 0.01 0.01

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