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Genetic studies reveal kiwis are the closest living relatives of the huge elephant birds

Genetic studies reveal kiwis are the closest living relatives of the huge elephant birds

Ratites are mostly flightless bird that include the African ostrich, South American rhea, Australian emu and cassowary, New Zealand kiwis and extinct moa, and Madagascar's extinct elephant bird. Alan Cooper at the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA analyzed elephant birds' mitochondrial DNA and found their closest living relatives were diminutive kiwis half a world away! As shown by this and other DNA research, ratites evolved from small birds that flew between continents about 50 million years ago, becoming large and flightless at least six independent times. This differs radically from the previous view that ratites evolved from a common large flightless ancestor.

Did you know? Convergent evolution produces similar traits in multiple lineages whose ancestors lacked the trait.

2014