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Picture of the Day

Scientists to build the avian tree of life

Birds are the only surviving descendants of dinosaurs. Birds also are used to study a large range of fundamental topics in biology from understanding the evolution of mating systems to learning about the genetic and environmental factors that affect their beautiful plumages. Although birds are often studied by scientists and enjoyed by millions of birdwatchers, a complete description of the evolutionary relationships among all 10,560 bird species has not been possible. With the support of the National Science Foundation, scientists have embarked on a large-scale project to build the evolutionary tree of all bird species using cutting-edge technologies to collect DNA from across the genome. This project, called OpenWings, will produce the most complete evolutionary tree of any vertebrate group to date. Because this research will take several years to complete, the project will also release data to the public as they are generated for use by any scientist, citizen or professional, for their own research.

Visit Website | Image credit: Andre Moncrieff/Louisiana State University