Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Tinamou


Signal plasticity is considered an important step in the evolution of animal communication. In acoustic communication, signal transmission is often constrained by background noise. One adaptation to evade acoustic signal masking is the Lombard effect, in which an animal increases its vocal amplitude in response to an increase in background noise. This form of signal plasticity has been found in mammals, including humans, and some birds, but not frogs. However, the evolution of the Lombard effect is still unclear. Here we demonstrate for the first time the Lombard effect in a phylogentically basal bird species, the tinamou Eudromia elegans. By doing so, we take a step towards reconstructing the evolutionary history of noise-dependent vocal plasticity in birds. Similar to humans, the tinamous also raised their vocal pitch in noise, irrespective of any release from signal masking. The occurrence of the Lombard effect in a basal bird group suggests that this form of vocal plasticity was present in the common ancestor of all living birds and thus evolved at least as early as 119 Ma.

Concepts: Evolution, Bird, Evolutionary biology, Sound, Paleontology, Charles Darwin, Lombard effect, Tinamou


The role of pigments in generating the colour and maculation of birds' eggs is well characterized, whereas the effects of the eggshell’s nanostructure on the visual appearance of eggs are little studied. Here, we examined the nanostructural basis of glossiness of tinamou eggs. Tinamou eggs are well known for their glossy appearance, but the underlying mechanism responsible for this optical effect is unclear. Using experimental manipulations in conjunction with angle-resolved spectrophotometry, scanning electron microscopy, atomic force microscopy and chemical analyses, we show that the glossy appearance of tinamou eggshells is produced by an extremely smooth cuticle, composed of calcium carbonate, calcium phosphate and, potentially, organic compounds such as proteins and pigments. Optical calculations corroborate surface smoothness as the main factor producing gloss. Furthermore, we reveal the presence of weak iridescence on eggs of the great tinamou (Tinamus major), an optical effect never previously documented for bird eggs. These data highlight the need for further exploration into the nanostructural mechanisms for the production of colour and other optical effects of avian eggshells.

Concepts: Optics, Bird, Chicken, Calcium carbonate, Eggshell, Tinamou, Tinamus, Great Tinamou


One of the most startling discoveries in avian molecular phylogenetics is that the volant tinamous are embedded in the flightless ratites, but this topology remains controversial because recent morphological phylogenies place tinamous as the closest relative of a monophyletic ratite clade. Here, we integrate new phylogenomic sequences from 1,448 nuclear DNA loci totalling almost one million base pairs from the extinct little bush moa, Chilean tinamou and emu with available sequences from ostrich, elegant crested tinamou, four neognaths and the green anole. Phylogenetic analysis using standard homogeneous models and heterogeneous models robust to common topological artefacts recovered compelling support for ratite paraphyly with the little bush moa closest to tinamous within ratites. Ratite paraphyly was further corroborated by eight independent CR1 retroposon insertions. Analysis of morphological characters reinterpreted on a 27-gene paleognath topology indicates that many characters are convergent in the ratites, probably as the result of adaptation to a cursorial life style.

Concepts: Bird, Phylogenetics, Computational phylogenetics, Flightless bird, Ratite, Tinamou, Ratites, Palaeognathae


Large-scale multilocus studies have become common in molecular phylogenetics, but the best way to interpret these studies when their results strongly conflict with prior information about phylogeny remains unclear. An example of such a conflict is provided by the ratites (the large flightless birds of southern land masses, including ostriches, emus, and rheas). Ratite monophyly is strongly supported by both morphological data and many earlier molecular studies and is used as a textbook example of vicariance biogeography. However, recent studies have indicated that ratites are not monophyletic; instead, the volant tinamous nest inside the ratites rather than forming their sister group within the avian superorder Palaeognathae. Large-scale studies can exhibit biases that reflect a number of factors, including limitations in the fit of the evolutionary models used for analyses and problems with sequence alignment, so the unexpected conclusion that ratites are not monophyletic needs to be rigorously evaluated. A rigorous approach to testing novel hypotheses generated by large-scale studies is to collect independent evidence (i.e., excluding the loci and/or traits used to generate the hypotheses). We used 40 nuclear loci not used in previous studies that investigated the relationship among ratites and tinamous. Our results strongly support the recent molecular studies, revealing that the deepest branch within Palaeognathae separates the ostrich from other members of the clade, rather than the traditional hypothesis that separates the tinamous from the ratites. To ensure these results reflected evolutionary history, we examined potential biases in types of loci used, heterotachy, alignment biases, and discordance between gene trees and the species tree. All analyses consistently supported nonmonophyly of the ratites and no confounding biases were identified. This confirmation that ratites are not monophyletic using independent evidence will hopefully stimulate further comparative research on paleognath development and genetics that might reveal the basis of the morphological convergence in these large, flightless birds.

Concepts: Bird, Phylogenetics, Emu, Ostrich, Flightless bird, Ratite, Tinamou, Cassowary


This study aimed to report in detail, the technique and challenges of cloacal massage, to collect and evaluate semen from red-winged tinamou (Rhynchotus rufescens) keep in captivity, performed by only one technician. Sixty-four semen collection attempts, from 16 adult males, during breeding season and 16 attempts form these same 16 males in non-breeding season, were performed. Prior to collection, all animals were conditioned to cloacal massage for 6 weeks and the ejaculates were succeed with viable spermatozoa and then, evaluated for feces, urine and mucus contamination, volume, concentration, sperm vigor, motility, morphological defects and acrosome integrity. Semen collection success rate was 63% in breeding season and 2 (5%) samples were discarded by grade 5 contamination. Only 3 ejaculates from 16 tinamou were obtained in non-breeding season. Sperm concentration and acrosome integrity was higher (p = 0.00) in breeding season, and the percentage of total sperm morphological defects, were high in both in breeding and out breeding season. Overall, we concluded that the red-winged tinamou breeding season, is linked to photoperiod (spring and summer), and at this period time, semen can be obtained by cloacal massage collection satisfactorily, allowing its use in reproduction biotechnologies and sperm cryopreservation.

Concepts: Reproduction, Sperm, Spermatozoon, Semen, Tinamou, Rhynchotus, Red-winged Tinamou, Huayco Tinamou


In 2015, we identified an avian hepatitis B virus associated with hepatitis in a group of captive elegant-crested tinamous (Eudromia elegans) in Germany. The full-length genome of this virus shares <76% sequence identity with other avihepadnaviruses. The virus may therefore be considered a new extant avian hepadnavirus.

Concepts: Virus, Cirrhosis, Hepatitis, Hepatitis B, Viruses, Hepatitis B virus, Hepadnaviridae, Tinamou


Disentangling the role of competition in regulating the distribution of sympatric species can be difficult because species can have different habitat preferences or time use that introduce non-random patterns that are not related to interspecific interactions. We adopted a multi-step approach to systematically incorporate habitat preferences while investigating the co-occurrence of two presumed competitors, morphologically similar, and closely related ground-dwelling birds: the brown tinamou (Crypturellus obsoletus) and the tataupa tinamou (C. tataupa). First, we used single-species occupancy models to identify the main landscape characteristics affecting site occupancy, while accounting for detection probability. We then used these factors to control for the effect of habitat while investigating species co-occurrence. In addition, we investigated species present-time partitioning by measuring the degree of overlap in their activity time. Both species were strictly diurnal and their activity time highly overlapped (i.e., the species are not present-time partitioning). The distribution of the two species varied across the landscape, and they seemed to occupy opposite portions of the study area, but co-occurrence models and species interaction factors suggested that the tinamous have independent occupancy and detection. In addition, co-occurrence models that accounted for habitat performed better than models without habitat covariates. The observed co-occurrence pattern is more likely related to habitat preferences, wherein species segregated by elevation. These results provide evidence that habitat characteristics can play a bigger role than interspecific interactions in regulating co-existence of some species. Therefore, exploring habitat preferences while analyzing co-occurrence patterns is essential, in addition to being a feasible approach to achieve more accurate estimation of parameters reflecting species interactions. Occupancy models can be a valuable tool in such modeling.

Concepts: Competition, Biological interactions, Biological interaction, Tinamou, Tinamiformes, Crypturellus, Brown Tinamou


The functions of slow wave sleep (SWS) and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, distinct sleep substates present in both mammals and birds, remain unresolved. One approach to gaining insight into their function is to trace the evolution of these states through examining sleep in as many taxonomic groups as possible. The mammalian and avian clades are each composed of two extant groups, i.e., the monotremes (echidna and platypus) and therian (marsupial and eutherian [or placental]) mammals, and Palaeognaths (cassowaries, emus, kiwi, ostriches, rheas, and tinamous) and Neognaths (all other birds) among birds. Previous electrophysiological studies of monotremes and ostriches have identified a unique “mixed” sleep state combining features of SWS and REM sleep unlike the well-delineated sleep states observed in all therian mammals and Neognath birds. In the platypus this state is characterized by periods of REM sleep-related myoclonic twitching, relaxed skeletal musculature, and rapid eye movements, occurring in conjunction with SWS-related slow waves in the forebrain electroencephalogram (EEG). A similar mixed state was also observed in ostriches; although in addition to occurring during periods with EEG slow waves, reduced muscle tone and rapid eye movements also occurred in conjunction with EEG activation, a pattern typical of REM sleep in Neognath birds. Collectively, these studies suggested that REM sleep occurring exclusively as an integrated state with forebrain activation might have evolved independently in the therian and Neognath lineages. To test this hypothesis, we examined sleep in the elegant crested tinamou (Eudromia elegans), a small Palaeognath bird that more closely resembles Neognath birds in size and their ability to fly. A 24-h period was scored for sleep state based on electrophysiology and behavior. Unlike ostriches, but like all of the Neognath birds examined, all indicators of REM sleep usually occurred in conjunction with forebrain activation in tinamous. The absence of a mixed REM sleep state in tinamous calls into question the idea that this state is primitive among Palaeognath birds and therefore birds in general.

Concepts: Sleep, Bird, Electroencephalography, Mammal, Neurophysiology, Rapid eye movement sleep, Tinamou, Eudromia


The avian centrifugal visual system, which projects from the brain to the retina, has been intensively studied in several Neognathous birds that have a distinct isthmo-optic nucleus (ION). However, birds of the order Palaeognathae seem to lack a proper ION in histologically stained brain sections. We had previously reported in the palaeognathous Chilean Tinamou (Nothoprocta perdicaria) that intraocular injections of Cholera Toxin B subunit retrogradely label a considerable number of neurons, which form a diffuse isthmo-optic complex (IOC). In order to better understand how this IOC-based centrifugal visual system is organized, we have studied its major components by means of in vivo and in vitro tracing experiments. Our results show that the IOC, though structurally less organized than an ION, possesses a dense core region consisting of multipolar neurons. It receives afferents from neurons in L10a of the optic tectum, which are distributed with a wider inter-neuronal spacing than in Neognathae. The tecto-IOC terminals are delicate and divergent, unlike the prominent convergent tecto-ION terminals in Neognathae. The centrifugal IOC terminals in the retina are exclusively divergent, resembling the terminals from ‘ectopic’ centrifugal neurons in Neognathae. We conclude that the Tinamou’s IOC participates in a comparable general IOC-retina-TeO-IOC circuitry as the neognathous ION. However, the connections between the components are structurally different and their divergent character suggests a lower spatial resolution. Our findings call for further comparative studies in a broad range of species for advancing our understanding of the evolution, plasticity and functional roles of the avian centrifugal visual system. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Nervous system, Neuron, Brain, Bird, Retina, Visual perception, Optic nerve, Tinamou


Zebrin II (ZII) is a glycolytic enzyme expressed in cerebellar Purkinje cells. In both mammals and birds, ZII is expressed heterogeneously, such that there are sagittal stripes of Purkinje cells with a high ZII expression (ZII+) alternating with stripes of Purkinje cells with little or no expression (ZII-). To date, ZII expression studies are limited to neognathous birds: pigeons (Columbiformes), chickens (Galliformes), and hummingbirds (Trochilidae). These previous studies divided the avian cerebellum into 5 transverse regions based on the pattern of ZII expression. In the lingular region (lobule I) all Purkinje cells are ZII+. In the anterior region (lobules II-V) there are 4 pairs of ZII+/- stripes. In the central region (lobules VI-VIII) all Purkinje cells are ZII+. In the posterior region (lobules VIII-IX) there are 5-7 pairs of ZII+/- stripes. Finally, in the nodular region (lobule X) all Purkinje cells are ZII+. As the pattern of ZII stripes is quite similar in these disparate species, it appears that it is highly conserved. However, it has yet to be studied in paleognathous birds, which split from the neognaths over 100 million years ago. To better understand the evolution of cerebellar compartmentation in birds, we examined ZII immunoreactivity in a paleognath, the Chilean tinamou (Nothoprocta perdicaria). In the tinamou, Purkinje cells expressed ZII heterogeneously such that there were sagittal ZII+ and ZII- stripes of Purkinje cells, and this pattern of expression was largely similar to that observed in neognathous birds. For example, all Purkinje cells in the lingular (lobule I) and nodular (lobule X) regions were ZII+, and there were 4 pairs of ZII+/- stripes in the anterior region (lobules II-V). In contrast to neognaths, however, ZII was expressed in lobules VI-VII as a series of sagittal stripes in the tinamou. Also unlike in neognaths, stripes were absent in lobule IXab, and all Purkinje cells expressed ZII in the tinamou. The differences in ZII expression between the tinamou and neognaths could reflect behavior, but the general similarity of the expression patterns across all bird species suggests that ZII stripes evolved early in the avian phylogenetic tree. © 2015 S. Karger AG, Basel.

Concepts: Evolution, Bird, Cerebellum, Purkinje cell, Parallel fiber, Tinamou, Neognathae, Nothoprocta