Scientists shed new light on how species diverge

 Macaws flying over the rainforest canopy at dawn. The study found that bird lineages that inhabit the forest canopy, such as these macaws, accumulate fewer species over evolutionary time than do bird lineages that inhabit the forest understory. Credit: Mike Hankey.

Macaws flying over the rainforest canopy at dawn. The study found that bird lineages that inhabit the forest canopy, such as these macaws, accumulate fewer species over evolutionary time than do bird lineages that inhabit the forest understory. Credit: Mike Hankey.

Birds that are related, such as Darwin’s finches, but that vary in beak size and behavior specially evolved to their habitat are examples of a process called speciation. It has long been thought that dramatic changes in a landscape like the formation of the Andes Mountain range or the Amazon River is the main driver that initiates species to diverge. However, a recent study shows that speciation occurred much later than these dramatic geographical changes. Researchers from LSU’s Museum of Natural Science have found that time and a species’ ability to move play greater parts in the process of speciation. This research was published today in the print edition of Nature. Continue reading