New Research Identifies Drivers of Rich Bird Diversity in Neotropics
An international team of researchers is challenging a commonly held view that explains how so many species of birds came to inhabit the Neotropics, an area rich in rain forest that extends from Mexico to the southernmost tip of South America. The new research, published today in the journal Nature and co-led by Brian Smith, an assistant curator in the Museum’s Division of Vertebrate Zoology, suggests that tropical bird speciation is not directly linked to geological and climate changes, as traditionally thought. Instead, it is driven by movements of birds across physical barriers such as mountains and rivers that occur long after those landscapes’ geological origins.
"The Neotropic zone has more species of birds than any other region on Earth," said Smith, who started this work as a postdoctoral researcher at Louisiana State University. "The unanswered question has been—how did this extraordinary bird diversity originate?"
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