Hoatzin, extraterrestrial bird

Hoatzin, extraterrestrial bird

This funny story emerges from the detailed analysis carried out by geneticists to reconstruct the epic of bird evolution: this maddening conquest of the skies by the few surviving dinosaurs.

Called “10,000 Genomes,” the project was launched in 2015. Objective: To sequence and classify the genomes of representatives of 34 known birds, then a representative of 240 families, then one of 2250 genera, and finally a representative of about 8000 different species. Just draw a beautiful evolutionary tree!

In the coming days, International team 240 families (position of orders already placed) will be submitted for publication. And, already, they notice it: there is an intrusion, an unclassifiable, different: Hatchin. “An Abominable Revival Race”, one of the researchers told us. The hoatsin, or “sasa” in Guyanese Creole, is a pheasant-sized bird that lazes in the foliage of Amazonian mangroves. And his behavior, already, is strange.

Unique among birds, it hums like a cow: its chest leads to a large crop, where leaves and buds ferment. Other quirks: the baby bird can instinctively swim even underwater; Each wing has a pair of dinosaur-like claws that allow it to climb trees; And he can move on all fours, like a quadruped. But what’s more mysterious is its genetics: it’s the only bird with no living relatives. He was lost in the tree: he was the only representative of his order, cut down for him, for lack of anything better.

For morphological reasons, it has long been associated with chickens, and later with cranes. For genetic reasons, it was later assigned to the group of “land birds” (such as peacocks), and then to the shorebirds, an order of small waders. But, even with the new hierarchy, nothing can be done: there is ambiguity.

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Without a common ancestor with other birds, the origin of its branch cannot be traced. According to some, the mystery of Hodes will never be solved. So he may always be the most mysterious of all birds. A real alien…

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About the Author: Cary Douglas

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