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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

From night to day owl

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It’s only an hour, but in the days after the time change from winter to summer, the stolen 60 minutes trigger sleep disturbances, depressed moods, heart rate fluctuations, poor concentration, irritability, loss of appetite, and, sometimes even digestive problems. A mini jetlag that subsides after a few days, but that shows how attached the body is to its biorhythm.

This also applies to animals, especially owls, which are known to turn night into day to successfully hunt and reproduce. A Chinese research team has now found that there must have been species of owls as early as the Miocene, which apparently made them nervous during night shifts, preferring to sleep at night and hunt during the day. In the end, they didn’t like the time change. They became extinct.

Fossilized bones indicate a diurnal lifestyle.

At least that is how the research team led by Zhiheng Li of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing interprets evidence from the discovery of an almost completely preserved fossil of an owl approximately 6 to 9.5 million years old from the Earth. Liushu Formation in the north. western Gansu province of China. This is what the orbital bones of Myosurnia durnia to rather small eyes and therefore to a diurnal way of life. This species is now considered the evolutionarily oldest diurnal owl species.

The exceptionally well-preserved fossil of Myosurnia diurna, the evolutionarily oldest species of diurnal owl.Photo: Zhiheng Li

Based on the morphological features of the fossil bones, Li and colleagues were able to assign the species to the Surniini owls, which also include other species of diurnal owls still living today, such as the snowy owl, the sparrowhawk, and the owl. long-eared owl That’s how it came but probably also Myosurnia durnia of nocturnal ancestors, so at some point he preferred the light-flooded existence under the sun to night life. Presumably, according to the researchers, because the chances of catching small diurnal mammals in the savannah-like environment were better than at night. At least temporarily. Because at some point the tide turned again and the species disappeared.

The evolutionary history of owls, Li’s team writes in the journal PNAS, and their adaptations to nocturnal, crepuscular, or diurnal lifestyles is probably more complex than previously assumed. It is possible that the common ancestor of all Surniini owls was diurnal, as fossil features suggest a long evolutionary history of adaptation to diurnal lifestyles. However, it will be difficult to explain this, because the particularly fragile bones of birds rarely survive millions of years.


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