Posts Tagged ‘Imperial College London’

Complete ‘Family Tree’ Of All British Birds Gives Clues About Which Species Might Be Endangered Next

June 12, 2008

A new complete evolutionary ‘family tree’ showing how all British bird species are related to each other may provide clues about which ones are at risk of population decline, according to new research published June 11 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

Comparing the new family tree with existing lists of endangered bird species, author Dr Gavin Thomas from the NERC Centre for Population Biology at Imperial College London found that British birds currently suffering population decline were clustered close together on the same branches of the family tree.

Because of this the family tree, or ‘phylogeny’, could be used to predict which species are at risk of decline in the future. Bird species which are not experiencing decline at the moment, but which sit close to species that are declining on the family tree, may be at risk next. This is because closely related species on the family tree share physical traits. Some of these traits such as low reproductive rates or specific habitat requirements may render them less able to cope with climate change or depletion of their habitat and make them exceptionally vulnerable to decline.

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Family Feuds: Why Close Relatives Keep Their Distance In The Animal Kingdom

May 30, 2008

Mammals cannot share their habitat with closely related species because the need for the same kind of food and shelter would lead them to compete to the death, according to new research out on May 28, 2008 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

The team behind the study says this is important because the retreat of natural habitats like rainforests caused by habitat destruction and climate change could inadvertently force closely-related species to live closer together than before.

Lead author of the study Natalie Cooper, a postgraduate student in Imperial College London’s Department of Life Sciences, explains: “Mammal species that share a recent common ancestor have similar needs in terms of food and other resources. Our study shows that this has naturally resulted in closely related species keeping their distance from each other in the wild. Without this separation, one species outcompetes the other.

“The danger is that if mankind’s reduction of natural habitats throws these close relatives together in small geographical areas they could struggle to survive.”

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