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Research on bird beaks delivers powerful insights on variation


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Evolutionary biologists have long held up songbirds, particularly the Galapagos finches first described by Charles Darwin, as an example of natural selection at work. In order to exploit different environments and food sources, the birds developed a startling variety of beak shapes—from short, blunt beaks ideal for cracking seeds and nuts to long, slender beaks designed to sip nectar from flowers. The assumption was that natural selection was the primary, if not the sole, cause for the variation.

 

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