Scientists found in the forests of the Amazon, the first hybrid species of birds

CC BY-SA 3.0 / Dysmorodrepanis / Paratype male of Lepidothrix vilasboasiПаратип deltasubani pipri at the natural history Museum in Berlin,Scientists found in the forests of the Amazon, the first hybrid species of birdsCC BY-SA 3.0 / Dysmorodrepanis / Paratype male of Lepidothrix vilasboasi

. Canadian ornithologists discovered that jaltepeque pipri, rare Amazonian tropical birds, are the first «natural» hybrid birds in America and probably the Earth as a whole, according to a paper published in the journal PNAS.

«There are a huge number of hybrid plant varieties, but hybrids are extremely rare among vertebrates. If both ancestor of these birds lived in conditions of geographic isolation, then jaltepeque pipri did not exist in any other parts of the world, where they live closely related species, hybrids never become separate species,» said Jason Weir (Jason Weir) from the University of Toronto (Canada).

In most cases, hybrids scientists call the descendants of two different types of kindred beings, which somehow exchanged genetic material. As a rule, hybrids are common in plants, whereas in animals they are very rare, and among birds, scientists did not know about the existence of any «natural» hybrid, whose hybrid nature was not disputed by half of the scientific community.

Their rarity is due to one simple thing – the vast majority of hybrids are sterile, which does not allow them to continue to race and to stand apart as a separate species, even if they have a series of advantages in comparison with that, and with the other parent. There are small exceptions to this rule – tropical Stenella clymene dolphins, bison, hybrids of bison and the steppe ancestors of modern cows, American red wolves, descendants of coyotes and wolves, and several species of flies and fish.

Weir and his colleagues discovered the first as I think most scientists, the feathered hybrid, studying kinship between the so-called piprani is a small tropical birds from passerines. They live in the forests of the Amazon and different variegated color.

To do this, scientists made several expeditions to the tropical forests of Brazil and gathered feathers, and other traces of these birds, containing the DNA, extracted genetic material, decoded it and compared among themselves. This comparison revealed an unusual origin of one of the rarest subspecies of these birds, deltasubani the pipra (Lepidothrix vilasboasi).

It turned out that the genome of these small birds consisted of two heterogeneous parts – about 20% of the DNA they inherited from the pine pipra (Lepidothrix nattereri), and the remaining 80% from haplogroup the pipra (Lepidothrix iris). This hybrid species of birds, as shown by the analysis of their DNA, appeared recently in evolutionary terms, about 180 thousand years ago.

This was possible because of two things – large degree of isolation of the ancestors of these pipra at that time related to the advances and retreats of glaciers and climate change in the tropics, and that the ancestors of pine and haplography the pipra are also not so long ago, about 300 thousand years ago.

This unique example of natural hybridization has led to unusual changes in the structure of the feathers, covering the «cap» of these birds. As scholars have noted, this decoration of males was unusually dull for the reason that its feathers have a completely different structure from pine and haplography the pipra.

This is a negative consequence of the crossing, according to Weir, forced the ancestors of deltasubani pipra to find a bright yellow tail that attracts the attention of females no less than the brilliant white or blue hat of their progenitors. This change, in fact, was the reason why these pipra became a separate species and not just one variation of their progenitors concludes geneticist.