International team maps “Big Bang” of bird evolution

The genomes of modern birds tell a story of how they emerged and evolved after the massextinction that wiped out dinosaurs and almost everything else 66 million years ago. That story is now coming to light, thanks to an ambitious international collaboration that has been underway for four years led by Guojie Zhang of the National Genebank at BGI in China and Thomas P. Gilbert of the Natural History Museum of Denmark. The first findings of the Avian Phylogenomics Consortium are being reported nearlysimultaneously in 23 papers — eight papers in a Dec. 12 special issue of Science and 15 more in Genome Biology, GigaScience and other journals.


Gigantic cooperation

Scientists already knew that the birds who survived the mass extinction experienced a rapid burst of evolution. But the family tree of modern birds has confused biologists for centuries and the molecular details of how birds arrived at the spectacular biodiversity of more than 10,000 species is barely known. To resolve these fundamental questions, a consortium of more than 200 scientists from 80 institutions in 20 countries have cooperated on ”The Avian Phylogenomic Project” for four years. The cooperation involves quite a few researchers from DNRF Centers of Excellence, among others Guojie Zhang who is affiliated with Center for Social Evolution, Eske Willerslev, center leader at Centre for GeoGenetics, Carsten Rahbek, center leader at Center for for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate, plus Jon Fjeldså og Knud Jønsson. The study emerged in the synergy between Tom Gilbert (Centre for GeoGenetics) and Guojie Zhang, a cross different institutes and as a cooperation between individual researchers from several DNRF Centers of Excellence. “It’s a fantastic example of the fact that DNRF Centers of Excellence are not limited to do research in their own core fields. They contribute to the establishment of younger researchers who create new research areas outside the existing DNRF Centers of Excellence”, says Carsten Rahbek.
Read more at Centre for GeoGenetics’ website

Read more at Centre for for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate’s website Center for Social Evolution See the Science special issue here