Convergent evolution? Vampire birds have same gut bacteria as vampire bats


EXCERPT: Galápagos finches have been used since Darwin’s time to illustrate evolution in action. Even among them, Geospiza septentrionalis is an outlier [...] Drinking blood is an unusual diet, and research published last year showed that vampire finches have evolved specialized bacteria in their guts to aid digestion. Even more surprising, according to a paper this week in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, is that some of these bacteria are similar to ones found in the vampire bats of Central and South America.

Se Jin Song, a biologist at the University of California San Diego and the study’s lead author, had previously studied the convergent evolution of gut bacteria. Do disparate animals with the equivalent of fad diets — eating only ants and termites, for instance — develop similar gut microbiota over evolutionary time? [...] Blood-drinking finches don’t have it easy. They only resort to their vampiric diet in lean times, and blood is dangerously high in salt and iron — and low in essential nutrients such as B vitamins. Vampire bats face the same dietary challenges. (MORE -details)

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