Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Rapid environmental change can have noticeable effects on species

American songbirds evolve with forests
Eastern North American songbirds are a pretty adaptable bunch, says a scientist who discovered some remarkable changes in their wings over the last 100 years.

A close look at museum collections of 851 songbird specimens belonging to 21 species shows that most of the birds evolved pointier wings after their forests were fragmented by clear-cutting. Others in re-foresting areas evolved less-pointy wings. The reason for the wing changes: nothing less than the drive to procreate.

Pointier wings can help birds who are long-distance commuters fly more efficiently. More rounded wings, however, are better over short distances.

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