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Scientists Discover How a Flightless Bird Ended Up on “Inaccessible Island”

Image via Facebook/Atlas Obscura

A new study found that the smallest flightless bird in the world—exclusively found on an island called “Inaccessible Island” in the middle of the Atlantic—once had wings, flew to the island 1.5 million years ago, and lost its ability to fly through evolution.

“It seems like the birds flew about 2,174 miles from South America and then landed on Inaccessible Island, which was probably the first pieces of land they saw,” Martin Stervander, PhD, lead author on the paper, tells Inverse.

According to the outlet, Inaccessible Island is “densely inhabited by these birds,” with about 5,600 on the island.

After Stervander and his colleagues analyzed the bird’s DNA, they discovered that the bird is most closely related to the Dot-Winged Crake in South America and the Black Rail found in South and North America. When the common ancestor flew to Inaccessible Island, the species changed drastically through evolution.

Some changes include a longer bill, sturdier legs, a change in color and the loss of the ability to fly. The study suggests that the bird eventually became flightless because they no longer needed to fly to get their food, and there were no predators to fly away from.

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