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Post details: Birdfeeders Found to Cause Evolution of New Species

Dec 4 '09

Now this is a new twist I found over on TreeHugger.com:

Up until now, most people have likely regarded bird-feeders as merely a pleasant addition to their gardens. But scientists have recently discovered that bird-feeders in the UK are actually having a serious long term impact on the birds that eat from them--so large an impact that researchers believe the feeders have brought about the first evolutionary step in a brand new species.

[More:]

By providing a food source in the winter for Blackcaps -- a new migration pattern was developed which led to a new species of bird with distinctive physical characteristics:

Since the British were providing food for the birds, that gave them a huge advantage in surviving the winter. Over time, the group of birds that didn't migrate south began to mate only with other moochers--creating the first step in the formation of their own species. The researchers had a hunch that this was precisely what was going on, that there would soon be a brand new species of blackcaps. But they needed proof.

The new blackcaps sport different plumage, beaks, and wings. They have rounder wings thanks to the shorter trip they now make, and longer narrower beaks--the better to eat from bird feeders, of course. These evolutionary changes took place in a mere 50 years.

As the article says, this is proof that not everything we do to change the environment and the world around us, effects wildlife catastrophically - here is a situation where we unconsciously altered the world around us and provided a niche where a species formed. Pretty neat stuff.

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