Scientists map the genetic make-up of 363 bird species 

The genetic make-up of 363 species of bird - ranging from the humble chicken to the amazing bird-of-paradise - has been mapped by scientists for the first time.

The work, by researchers from the Smithsonian Institute and about 100 other institutions, involved analysing over 17 trillion base pairs of DNA from bird species.

Researchers say 267 of the 363 bird species have had their genomes sequenced for the first time as part of this study - expanding the knowledge of the bird family tree.

Since the first bird evolved more than 150 million years ago, its descendants have adapted to a vast range of ecological niches, giving rise to tiny, hovering hummingbirds, plunge-diving pelicans and showy birds-of-paradise. 

Today, more than 10,000 species of birds live on the planet - and now scientists are well on their way to capturing a complete genetic portrait of that diversity.

Since the first bird evolved more than 150 million years ago, its descendants have adapted to a vast range of ecological niches, giving rise to tiny, hovering hummingbirds, plunge-diving pelicans and showy birds-of-paradise (pictured)

The genetic make-up of 363 species of bird - ranging from the humble chicken (pictured) to the amazing bird-of-paradise - has been mapped by scientists for the first time

The genetic make-up of 363 species of bird - ranging from the humble chicken (pictured) to the amazing bird-of-paradise - has been mapped by scientists for the first time

Researchers say 267 of the 363 bird species have had their genomes sequenced for the first time as part of this study - expanding the knowledge of the bird family tree

Researchers say 267 of the 363 bird species have had their genomes sequenced for the first time as part of this study - expanding the knowledge of the bird family tree

Published in the journal Nature, scientists sequenced the genomes of widespread, economically important birds such as the chicken, as well as rare, lesser known species such as the Henderson crane that lives on one island in the Pacific Ocean.

In total, the species sequenced by the team represent more than 92 per cent of the world's avian families, according to the study authors.

The data from the study will advance research on the evolution of birds and aid in their conservation, as it is freely available to the scientific community.  

The release of the new genomes is a major milestone for the Bird 10,000 Genomes Project (B10K), an international collaboration of scientists.

The B10K project was organised by researchers from around the world and aims to sequence and share the genome of every avian species on the planet.

'B10K is probably the single most important project ever conducted in the study of birds,' said Gary Graves, curator of birds at the National Museum of Natural History. 

Researchers have sampled birds for 92 per cent of all know avian species as part of the study including the Golden Eagle, Aquila chrysaetos

Researchers have sampled birds for 92 per cent of all know avian species as part of the study including the Golden Eagle, Aquila chrysaetos

A male Anna's Hummingbird, native to Arizona, hovering in mid-air. This is just one of 363 bird species that have had their genome sequenced

A male Anna's Hummingbird, native to Arizona, hovering in mid-air. This is just one of 363 bird species that have had their genome sequenced

'We're not only hoping to learn about the phylogenetic relationships among the major branches of the tree of life of birds, but we're providing an enormous amount of comparative data for the study of the evolution of vertebrates and life itself.'

Comparing genomes across bird families will enable researchers to explore how traits evolved in different birds and understand evolution at a molecular level.

Ultimately, B10K researchers aim to build a comprehensive 'avian tree of life' that charts the genetic relationships between all modern birds. 

Such knowledge will not

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