Today’s Solutions: January 30, 2023

A once-extinct species of bird has re-evolved back into existence and returned to the island it once colonized thousands of years ago.

The Aldabra white-throated rail was reportedly wiped out around 136,000 years ago when the island it called home submerged under the ocean due to rising sea levels. However, the flightless brown bird has recently been spotted – leaving scientists scratching their heads as to how – and why – the species has come back to life.

According to zoologists, the reincarnated rail is an example of ‘iterative evolution’ — when old genes thought to have died out re-emerge at a different point in time.

Essentially, the rare phenomenon means that while a bird’s ancestors might have disappeared, that DNA still remains – and provided the environment is right — the island not being under water anymore — there’s nothing to stop those ancient genes from replicating in modern times.

But don’t get your hopes up that this means dinosaurs and wooly mammoths will be popping up next. This scientific phenomenon only occurs within species that are nearly identical to their ancestors.

While iterative evolution has previously occurred in species such as turtles, it has never been seen in the realm of birds. “We know of no other example in the rails, or of birds in general, that demonstrates this phenomenon so evidently,” said paleobiologist David Martill.

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