Long long ago in a land
far far away not so far from here at all, crocodiles, dinosaurs, and birds all arose from early reptiles called thecodonts.
Using new computational methods developed by assistant professor of statistics Liang Liu, Travis Glenn of the College of Public health and others, an international team of scientists has shed more light on an obscure period of avian evolution and further untangle the bird family tree.
Members of the Avian Phylogenomics Consortium—composed of 200 researchers from 80 institutions and 20 countries—have sequenced and analyzed the genomes of 48 species of birds and three species of crocodiles to better understand the fundamental evolutionary events that led to feathers, flight and song.
The consortium simultaneously published 28 papers this past week—eight papers in a special Dec. 12 issue of Science and 20 more in Genome Biology, GigaScience and other journals.
Glenn, an associate professor of environmental health science in the College of Public Health; Liu, an assistant professor in the department of statistics and Institute of Bioinformatics in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences; and John Finger Jr., a doctoral student in the Interdisciplinary Toxicology Program and College of Public Health, were co-authors on two of the eight papers published in Science.
The first of these two papers, "Whole genome analyses resolve the early branches to the tree of life of modern birds," creates the most reliable tree of life for birds to date.
Fantastic work by our faculty and all members of the consortium, all celebrated in a special issue of Science. This is the kind of atmosphere that attracts the best graduate students, among other interested parties. So we celebrate this marvelous achievement and all the other indicators it provides, campus-wide and beyond.