We were very wrong about birds

A massive asteroid hit Earth 65 million years ago. While terrestrial dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus rex died, numerous birds thrived. There are over 10,000 bird species on Earth, so thriving may be an understatement.   

Since birds have so many species and their evolution is unknown, organizing them into a family tree is difficult. Some DNA sequencing and analysis developments are helping explain how the planet's dinosaurs evolved.  

Gluey DNA Computer technology used to research genomes let scientists reconstruct the Neoaves' family tree in 2014. This group comprises most birds.  

They classified Neoaves into two groups using 48 species' genomes. Doves and flamingos were in one group, all other birds were in the other.  

The team found a different family tree when they conducted the DNA analysis with 363 bird species for this new study. This one shows four main groups and that flamingos and doves are more distantly connected to a certain chromosomal location.  

The Nature paper shows an extensive chart spanning 93 million years of evolutionary ties between 363 bird species, or 92% of all bird groups. This updated family tree showed bird evolution after the Cretaceous-tertiary Extinction.  

Researchers found large increases in early bird effective population size, substitution rates, and relative brain size. These evolutionary alterations illuminate the adaptive mechanisms that caused bird species diversity after this planet-altering extinction catastrophe.  

ASTRAL computer algorithms helped them do this. This tool helps the researchers integrate genomic data from over 60,000 avian genome regions and predict evolutionary links rapidly and effectively.  

They next examined the evolutionary history of genomic segments and assembled numerous gene trees to form a species tree.