Scientists have reconstructed the tree of life for all major lineages of perching birds, also known as passerines, a large and diverse group of more than 6,000 species that includes familiar birds like cardinals, warblers, jays and sparrows. The researchers led the massive project using 221 bird specimens from 48 countries, including 56 tissue samples from the Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science's Collection of Genetic Resources. Using these samples, they extracted and sequenced DNA representing all passerine families, and they used these sequence data to understand how passerine species are related and to study when and how passerines diversified in relation to Earth's history. A white-bellied sunbird (shown here) is one of the 6,000 species included in the new tree of life of all perching birds.
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