Jul 17, 2019 | Updated: 11:17 AM EDT

New Food Source Could Lead to New Species in Birds, According to UA Biologists

Apr 30, 2019 07:02 AM EDT

Male and female superb fairy wren
(Photo : benjamint444)
Male and female superb fairy wren

In a community, the living things that inhabit the certain space would depend on the resources provided by or their interaction with other species. When there is a change in the members of the community or the species present, the product that the living things depend on and share would also change.

George Gaylord Simpson, the late professor of the geosciences at the University of Arizona, proposed that the fluctuating dependencies should determine the speed of evolution of the species in a community. The late professor is also one of the most influential evolutionary thinkers of the last century.

Alexander Badyaev, One of the ecologies and evolutionary biology professors of the University of Arizona stated that Simpson's theory has been difficult to test. The biology professor further explains that the species' interactions are both ephemeral and ubiquitous.

Recent research by Badyaev and his team resulted in determining a way to test the theory by examining the evolution of biochemical pathways that produce the color diversity in bird species.

The team's study focuses on the way biochemical processes are structured in birds. They explained that this would hold the key to understanding how one species gain and lose their reliance on other species that belong in the same community. As a result, this would dictate the rate of how fast the species could evolve and diversify. Their study confirms this prediction and reveals how it works.

Badyaev explains that birds convert dietary carotenoids into molecules. This evolution of pathways is necessary for everything ranging from the immune system, to feather pigmentation.

The team built and tested the structure of a large sum of carotenoid biochemical pathways in about 300 species of birds. The team then analyzed how the pathways have changed over the last 50 million years.

Badyaev Pointed out that the birds are incapable of creating the carotenoids themselves. However, the importance of carotenoids for multiple functions causes bird species to derive its dietary carotenoids from a single food source. This results in the source's disappearance in the community.

The team discovered that there are times when species would temporarily internalize control over their carotenoid production by using multiple sources of carotenoids. They would evolve at rather high rates, resulting in some of the most majestically colored birds in the world.

The team of scientists explains that while this would cause a species to evolve, the species would also become susceptible to new external controls, where the cycle repeats itself.

Badyaev added that gaining and losing internal control is one key feature of evolution.

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