Monday, October 17, 2016

Genetic Anaylsis Reveals Possible New Bird Species in North America

Over time organisms evolve and may potential become two separate species. This is known as speciation.
Speciation is a lineage splitting event that results in two different organisms.
 Speciation commonly occurs when organisms of the same population are separated for a time period and then go through small evolutionary changes over time until the point that they can no longer reproduce and produces viable offspring together.
The red crossbill is seen to the left and the South Hill cross bill is seen to the right

The South hills crossbill is potentially a newly discovered species of finch from the Idaho mountain range. It has been evolving for about 6,000 years and is considered to be a newly discovered species based on its dependence and difference in food source. . The South Hills crossbill feeds on the Rocky Mountain lodgepole pine. The South Hills crossbill has been diverging from the red crossbill because of its food source. In Idaho predator competition for the lodgepole pine has decreased allowing the South hill crossbills to feed on the pine more frequently. This has been resulting in the coevolution of the lodgepole pine. Tom Parchman a biologist from the University of Nevada led a genomic study on the coevolution of the South Hill crossbill and the lodgepine. He and his team were studying the evolutionary genetics of crossbills in the United States. Some of the key differences in the South Hill crossbill and the red cross finches is that they do not migrate, there calls differ, and their bill size. Parchman  states how this event is very rare in North America due to the fact that there is
genetic evidence for the distinctness of the locally adapted population of red crossbills that could result in a new bird species.


  1. Great article Alexandra! Like you said, it's very interesting that a new species has been discovered in North America. Very rarely does such a thing ever occur given the ecosystem that is North America. It's great to know that a new species of birds like the South Hills Crossbill has risen in North America. With that being said, this coevolution of the Crossbill and the lodgepole pine may be evidence that there are other organisms continuing to evolve in the North America and are simply waiting to be discovered.

  2. That's so cool! It's very interesting to not only see that a new species of finch has been discovered but how it has evolved over the last 6,000 years based on the availability of food sources in the environment. Because the competition for the lodgepole pine has decreased, it seems that this new species will have no trouble adapting to the environment and producing viable offspring.