October 4, 2023

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A new hummingbird with unusual bright golden plumage is shocking experts

A new hummingbird with unusual bright golden plumage is shocking experts

The bird’s newly discovered color may help answer some questions about how hummingbirds evolved.

When researchers found a hummingbird with bright golden feathers, they initially thought a new species had been discovered, but what they actually found was much more unusual.

The bird – found in Cordillera Azul National Park in the Peruvian Andes – is a never-before-documented hybrid of two different species native to western South America: the Rose-throated Glossy Hummingbird, Heliodoxa jularis, and the Red-webbed Glossy Hummingbird. Hummingbird, Heliodoxa branneki. Published earlier this year in the magazine Royal Society Open ScienceResearchers say this discovery opens the door to more questions about hybridization.

The separate hummingbird species are genetically distinct and do not typically interbreed with each other, according to A press release But “hybrids break that rule,” according to the study conducted by the Chicago Field Museum. How common hummingbird hybrids are is unknown to researchers, but they may be the driver of the color change.

“It is not clear how common hummingbird hybrids such as those found in this study are, but researchers speculate that such hybrids may contribute to the diversity of structural colors found across the hummingbird family tree.”

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Both the rose-throated hummingbird and the rose-throated hummingbird have bright pink throats, so the researchers wanted to understand how the two combined could produce a golden-throated hummingbird.

According to the press release, it is rare in the hummingbird family for members of the same species to have dramatically different throat colors, which is why scientists were puzzled when the birds’ DNA matched.

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“Sometimes hybrids are one-time exotics or are sterile, such as mules; in other cases, hybrids can form new species.

Using the speed of color evolution seen in hummingbirds, the researchers estimated that it would take between 6 and 10 million years for this radical shift to pink and gold to evolve in a single species.

“I looked at the bird and said to myself: This thing is unlike anything else.” “My first thought was, ‘It’s a new species,'” said John Bates, senior author of the study and curator of birds at the Field Museum.

So, how did this unusual bird originate? The answer has to do with “the complex ways in which iridescent feather colors are determined,” according to the Field Museum.

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How do hummingbirds get their colors? “It’s like cooking.”

According to the Field Museum, feathers get their primary color from pigments, such as melanin (black) and carotenoids (red and yellow), but hummingbirds are iridescent, meaning their color depends on how they bend and filter light when it strikes the feathers. Cells at different angles. The shifting iridescence is a result of structural color, which occurs when light interacts with micro- or nano-structures on the creature.

“It’s a bit like cooking: If you mix salt and water, you kind of know what you’re going to get, but mixing two complex recipes together can give unexpected results,” said Chad Eliason, a senior research scientist at the Field Museum.

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“This hybrid is a combination of two complex feather recipes from the two original species.”

14 facts about hummingbirds

  • Hundreds of types: There are currently 363 recognized species, but that number continues to grow as new species are identified, according to the Hattiesburg American, part of the USA TODAY network.
  • Only in the Americas: Hummingbirds are found nowhere else in the world except the Americas. However, this may not always have been the case. 30 million years ago, an ancestor of hummingbirds lived in the region now known as Poland and Germany.
  • The smallest birds in the world: Hummingbirds as a family are the smallest birds on Earth, but they are not all the same size. the The bee hummingbird is the smallest bird in the world Its weight is 2 grams. For comparison, a penny weighs 2.5 grams.
  • Frozen sleepers: Hummingbirds have a body temperature of about 104 degrees, but can drop at night. They enter a hibernation-like state when sleeping, and their body temperatures have been recorded as low as 38 degrees.
  • Spiders help build their nests: Hummingbirds build their nests using lichens and line them with very soft plant material, but they depend on spiders to provide some building materials. Birds use silk from spider webs to bind other materials together.
  • Nests that grow: Because of what hummingbirds use to build their nests, they are flexible and expand as the young birds grow to accommodate the increase in size.
  • Little eggs: Hummingbirds usually lay two eggs, which are about the size of a tic-tac.
  • Long distance travelers: Hummingbirds can travel thousands of miles during their migration. Ruby-throated hummingbirds have the longest flight over water among hummingbirds, traveling 500-600 miles non-stop over the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Incredible food: Hummingbirds have large appetites and consume twice their weight in food every day. To put that into perspective, this is the same 150-pound person who eats 1,200 1/4-pound hamburgers every day.
  • Spiders help feed hummingbirds, too: In addition to nectar, birds eat small flying insects and some that they pick up from spider webs.
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Contribution: Brian Broome