So this blew me away in a “huh! I didn’t think that was possible” kind of way.

The story is from biologists studying the fauna of the Seychelles. Like many islands close to continents, the Seychelles have a history of ships landing on the islands and being exploited to the ends of their resources by sailors and others who landed there. As a result — like the proverbial Dodo — many extinctions followed in the aftermath of the ships. One example was a species of white throated rail that was flightless (this often happens on islands to species that evolve to exploit the island’s unique ecosystem.) About 10,000 years ago, when human beings were navigating around East Africa, these birds went extinct. We have some of their remains. It was a delicate ecosystem, and these birds simply didn’t survive the advent of human beings.

And then something weird happened 10,000 years later. It seems that a new species of the same kind of bird has now RE-EVOLVED into basically the same species on the same island. The ecosystem is similar and the constraints were consistent — this island has essentially created another version of this same, flightless bird. It looks like this:

And you can read all of the details in the journal article published about the bird. Or you can read the reporting on the discovery here.

This is legitimately a trick that I have never imagined to be possible. That with the same basic parts and some similar circumstances, a new bird would take up residence where an old bird did not survive. Isn’t the world a remarkable place?

Dr. Georgia is the D.R.E. at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Cleveland, OH.

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