Hummingbird species to double in millions of years

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

These lovely birds with their lightning-fast wings come in a wide variety of species.

There are around 338 known hummingbird species, but according to a new study, that number is going to double over the next several million years. This may seem like a lot of time, but in terms of the evolutionary clock, it’ll be as if the tiny birds are popping up left and right.

In order to conduct their study, researchers analyzed the DNA of exactly 284 hummingbird species. Based on their results, the tiny birds seem to have evolved from related birds known as swifts 44 million years ago.

Then, when they migrated from Europe and Asia to South America about 22 million years ago, there was a burst of different types of hummingbirds, especially around the Andes Mountains.

This mountain range only covers around 7% of land in the Americas but it is home to more than 40% of hummingbirds species, which probably appeared over the last 10 million years.

As they spread across South America and worked their way into North America, the cute creatures grew into all types of colors, shapes, and sizes (though still very small of course!).

The researchers feel these mountains had something to do with the increase in the birds’ diversity. In fact, the landscape may continue to affect diversity in the future. Several hummingbirds are even evolving 15 times faster than the rest!

Images courtesy of kat+sam on Flickr.