Science Newly Discovered Genetic Changes Help Kingfishers plunge-diving behavior in birds

Newly Discovered Genetic Changes Help Kingfishers plunge-diving behavior in birds

plunge-diving behavior in birds: People are amazed at how well kingfishers can dive from great heights to catch prey underwater. But how did these birds learn to behave in such a complicated way? A brand-new study in the journal Nature Communications has found some of the genetic changes that have made kingfishers so good at plunge diving.

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kingfisher catch fish

The research plunge-diving behavior in birds:

The whole genome sequences of 31 species of kingfishers were looked at, and they were compared to the genomes of other birds. They discovered that kingfishers have changed a few genes that are linked to plunge-diving, these are some of them:

Kingfishers can see better underwater in low light thanks to changes to genes that help with vision.
Hearing genes have changed, which lets kingfishers find their prey underwater.
Kingfishers can keep their bearings while diving and swimming thanks to changes in genes that help with balance.
This study also discovered that positive selection was stronger on these genes in species of kingfisher that live on islands, which are more likely to have stronger changes in their population. This makes me think that the need to adapt to new and difficult environments may have led kingfishers to develop the ability to plunge dive.

Lessons learned from the study plunge-diving behavior in birds:

This study gives us new information about how complex behaviors like plunge-diving are rooted in our genes. It also shows how important genomic convergence is for the development of new traits. When different groups of organisms evolve similar traits on their own, in response to similar environmental challenges, this is called genomic convergence. When it comes to plunge-diving, kingfishers from different lineages have changed their genes in similar ways to be able to do this complicated behavior.

In conclusion plunge-diving behavior in birds:

The finding of these genetic changes in kingfishers helps us understand how these birds got to be so good at plunge diving. It also shows that even complicated behaviors can be caused by a small group of genetic changes. In the future, scientists might look into what role these genes play in other birds that plunge-dive and in animals that have evolved to behave in similar ways.

Things to think about plunge-diving behavior in birds:

What other things come to mind that show genomic convergence?
In what ways do you think the genetic changes found in this study may have helped kingfishers live and breed in new, difficult places?
How does this study change the way we think about how complex behaviors have evolved?