Recently Discovered Population Of Finch May Be Distinct Enough To Merit Designation As Its Own Species

Finding new bird species in the continental United States is a rare event. But a recently discovered population of finch in southern Idaho may be distinct enough to merit designation as its own species, according to a genomic study. The finch, a type of red crossbill called the South Hills crossbill, is found on only two small mountain ranges where its predation on lodgepole pine seeds has led to the evolution of enhanced seed defenses.

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  Sep 29, 2016   btugwell


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Finding new bird species in the continental United States is a rare event. But a recently discovered population of finch in southern Idaho may be distinct enough to merit designation as its own species, according to a genomic study published online 29 September in Molecular Ecology authored by a former postdoctoral researcher and two faculty from the University of Wyoming. The finch, a type of red crossbill called the South Hills crossbill, is found on only two small mountain ranges where its predation on lodgepole pine seeds has led to the evolution of enhanced seed defenses. As seed defenses have increased, evolution has favored larger beaked crossbills that now rarely breed with other forms of red crossbills that commonly co-occur in the same mountains. Most remarkably, this large-beaked crossbill and lodgepole pine have been co-adapting and diverging in their arms race for perhaps only 6,000 years, a very short time for a new bird species to evolve. See Wired Magazine: