An Illustrated Introduction to Speciation – Cornell Lab of Ornithology (2013)

Cornell Bird Lab produced a series of quite friendly short video programs to provide a scientific explanation for how new species have evolved (and are evolving). Indeed, how did 39 different bird of paradise species grouped in 15 genera evolved from one humble crow-like ancestor over 20 million years? At the heart of the story lies the biological species definition which is one of the many definitions biologists have derived for the species concept.

Long-distance movement is a prerequisite for colonization of new habitats and start of new species. Be it a great white shark who did one of the grandest walkabouts of animal kingdom by traveling from New Zealand to the Mediterranean or a cougar in Connecticut who came all the way from south Dakota or a tree seed that drifted across the Atlantic from America to Africa life makes real impressive moves.

In addition to the video highlighted above, Cornell Lab of Ornithology did a marvelous job of compiling the Bird of Paradise Project that consists of multiple short videos:

Evolution is not only a struggle for existence, it is also an effort to pass on genes to next generation. Mechanisms of evolution are well described. Behavior is one of the major selective forces in formation of new species. For instance, resource distribution can drive evolution of different behavior types. If resources are clumped most males will develop exaggerated armaments to defend their territories and capitalize on females. If resources are spread evenly to large areas armaments can become ornaments (bright colors, elaborate singing and cool flashy dance moves) to attract and impress females. Such behavioral differences can lead to reproductive isolation.

Birds are excellent study systems for understanding evolution. If you are into more bird related studies you can check out the Junco Project.

This article is a part of the Evolution series aiming to categorize posts related to this central biological concept in biology.



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