Evolution of a Swedish Bird

Researchers are trying to explain the origin of two species of bird on the Swedish Island of Öland. Understanding how a new species evolves is still somewhat of a mystery because it's an immensely slow process and takes place over thousands of years. Despite these limitations scientists are able to study fully formed, closely related species, such as these birds, and try to infer how they evolved.

The gametes of two species of bird: the Collared Flycatcher and Pied Flycatcher are being studied by researchers from the Evolutionary Biology Centre, in Uppsala, using a Linkam TH60-6 warm stage. These two species started to diverge approximately 2 million years ago.

The aim is to learn about how gametes diverge between species. The scientists think a mechanism has evolved to allow the breeding adults to better recognize a member of their own species, however the birds sometimes cross-breed. The resulting hybrid young have reduced fertility; an explanation of this is that the gametes have diverged.

One aspect of the study is to look at the characteristics of the ejaculates of both species, and hybrid males.

TH60-6 Linkam warm stage, and friend, at the Evolutionary Biology Centre

Researcher Murielle Podevin commented: “The warm stage is essential for my work since I need my samples to be kept at 40 degrees exactly so that there is no variation between samples.”

This ongoing research has cross-species implications, and helps scientists understand how other species may have developed. We look forward to finding out more about Murielle’s conclusions. 

By Caroline Feltham