Flightless Birds Evolved Six Times

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Flightless birds evolved six times, according to New Scientist 22 May 2014, and ABC News in Science and Dominion Post News, 23 May 2014. Flightless birds, collectively known as ratites, include the ostrich of Africa, the emu and cassowary of Australia, the rhea of South America, and the kiwi of New Zealand (NZ). It has always been assumed these, along with the now extinct Madagascan elephant bird and NZ moa, evolved from a flying ancestor when all these continents, along with Antarctica, were joined as one supercontinent, named Gondwana. When Gondwana began to break up 130 million years ago the now grounded ratites were separated into subgroups, and continued to evolve into their current and extinct forms. Because Australia is closest to NZ it was assumed the kiwi was derived from an Australian ancestor.

Alan Cooper, of University of Adelaide, have sequenced mitochondrial DNA from the bones of Madagascan elephant birds, and compared it to the DNA of other flightless birds, and came to the surprising conclusion that the diminutive kiwi is more closely related to the enormous elephant bird. Cooper commented: “It's about as bizarre a finding as you can get”.

Cooper’s team drew up an evolutionary tree for ratites and concluded the kiwi and elephant bird lineages separated about 50 to 60 million years ago. However, that is after Gondwana is believed to have split up. So how did they end up on opposite sides of the world, if they couldn’t fly or swim? According to Cooper: “The kiwi lineage had to get from Madagascar and clearly it must have flown because those two places were never joined. Clearly the ratites were flying when they dispersed”. This means flightless ratites must have independently evolved six times from a flying ancestor.

The Dominion Post (a NZ publication) commented: “Our national bird has been rescued from the clutches of the Australians, thanks to advances in DNA technology”. Cooper agrees with this sentiment. He commented: “The New Zealanders will be much more comfortable with that. It's their worst nightmare to be a derivative of Australia”.

ABC, Dominion Post News, New Scientist

Editorial Comment: Here is another reminder that evolutionists have more faith than creationists – in this case six times as much. The distribution of non-flying birds is no more a problem than the distribution of other non-flying creatures, provided you start in the right place. There is as yet no fossil bone evidence ratites were ever flying birds. The fossil and living evidence is that ratites have always been non-flying, and have either reproduced after their kind or died out. (There are birds such as flightless ducks and others that are known to have lost the ability to fly.) As land dwelling, air breathing creatures, ratites would have been on Noah’s ark, left the Middle East with the general dispersion of ark animals, and would have crossed continents via land bridges that existed when sea levels were lower, and possibly survived on rafts of vegetation and debris, just as other land dwelling creatures did. (Ref. biogeography, genetics, birds)

Evidence News vol. 14, No. 9
4 June 2014
Creation Research Australia