Darwin Finch

Scientists make unprecedented Galapagos discovery

Scientists have made an unprecedented discovery in the way that the diet of Galapagos birds has evolved.  A team of scientists from the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies spent three years studying the diets of Galapagos land birds. The results of the research, which was carried out over 12 islands, was published in the March 2015 issue of Nature Communications.

Extraordinary discovery

The research demonstrated that 19 of 23 Galapagos land bird species have expanded their diet to include the nectar and pollen of flowers. Prior to this study, it had been thought that many of these species fed solely on a more traditional diet of seeds and insects. Now the birds have developed a taste for flower products, apparently due to a short supply of seeds and insects in the Galapagos. The researchers believe that, in general, bird species that live on islands, where food shortages are more common than on the mainland, are often forced to get creative about their diets and look for other options.

The findings are unique in that, though the widening of diet has been observed in a single species, it has never before been observed across such a high number of species. In their report, the researchers explained that the phenomenon – which they have called “interaction release” – has “been previously reported for single species but never for an entire community.”

Photo: Darwin Finch by Benjamin Jakabek

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