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How the hummingbird ended up in the Andes


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Long-tailed Sylph - San Isidro Lodge - Ecuador_S4E4058 by Francesco Veronesi, on Flickr
Hummingbirds, fast and busy birds, live full lives – and some species do so even in the thin air of the Andes.

 

Just how these birds do so has been unclear: a bird that needs as much oxygen as does the hummingbird seems ill suited for the oxygen-poor Andean highlands. Animals, of course, tend to live where their resource needs are met.

 

But a new paper published in PNAS this week reports that different species of high-altitude South American hummingbirds have, independent of each other, alighted on the same genetic mutations to solve their high-altitude problems: these birds have optimized oxygen transport systems that keep their bantam bodies flush with oxygen.

 

“Natural selection has hit upon the same solutions time and time again,” says Jay Storz, lead author on the paper and a geneticist at The University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

 

Read more: http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/20131203/how-hummingbird-ended-andes

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