Of birds and beaks

Published: Wednesday 15 November 1995

The bill of the nectar-drinking iiwi bird of Hawaii has become shorter by 3 per cent since the last century, conclude University of Hawaii and University of California (Berkeley) zoologists after comparing the bills of 87 fiwis collected in 1902 with those of 135 recent specimens (Discover, Vol 16, No 9).

The iiwis used to feed on the flowers of the lobelia family with the help of their long down- curved beaks. Since majority of the lobelia family have been wiped out of the island, they have switched to the ohla tree. The ohia flowers were earlier monopo- lised by the now extinct on bird. The iiwis have added another peg in support to Darwin's theory of evolution.

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