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Wednesday, 27 July 2016

NZ wren DNA analysis reshapes geological theory

A DNA analysis of living and extinct species of mysterious New Zealand wrens may change theories around the country’s geological and evolutionary past.

A University of Adelaide study into New Zealand’s acanthisittid wrens has provided compelling evidence that, contrary to some suggestions, New Zealand was not completely submerged under the ocean around 21 to 25 million years ago.

The acanthisittid wrens are a group of tiny, largely flightless, birds found nowhere else in the world. They are called wrens because of their similarity in appearance and behaviour to “true wrens”, but they don’t belong to the same family.

“Of the seven species living before humans arrived in New Zealand, only two now remain, the rock wren and the rifleman,” says lead author Dr Kieren Mitchell, Postdoctoral Research Associate in the University’s Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD). “Consequently, little is known about their evolution.”

Published in the journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution and led by ACAD, the researchers analysed DNA from three of the extinct species along with the two living species.

The research was in collaboration with the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Canterbury Museum and the New Zealand Department of Conservation.

“Most surprisingly, we found that some of the wren species were only distantly related to each other, potentially sharing a common ancestor over 25 million years ago,” Dr Mitchell says.

“Previously, researchers have suggested that New Zealand was completely submerged 21 to 25 million years ago, which implies that all of New Zealand's unique plants and animals must have immigrated and diversified more recently than that time.

“This theory is consistent, for instance, with what is known about the moa, where the different species all shared a common ancestor much more recently than 21 million years ago.

“But the ancient divergences we found among the wrens suggest that they have been resident in New Zealand for more than 25 million years, and possibly as long as 50 million years (when New Zealand became disconnected from the rest of Gondwana).

“As the wrens were largely very poor fliers, or even flightless, some land must have remained throughout that period.

“This has important consequences for our understanding of the evolution of New Zealand’s unique ecosystems.” [Full Story]

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Monday, 25 July 2016

New University professorial appointment at Lyell McEwin

Research and medical teaching will be boosted at the Lyell McEwin Hospital with the University of Adelaide's first Chair of Medicine based at the Lyell McEwin Hospital, in a joint appointment with the Northern Adelaide Local Health Network (NALHN). [Full Story]

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Brain probe to examine drug dangers

University of Adelaide researchers have developed a new optical-fibre based probe, which can measure localised temperature-change deep inside the brain. [Full Story]

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Consumers treat superfoods as "extra insurance"

Australian consumers are skeptical about new superfoods but still consume them for a bit of "extra insurance" for their health. [Full Story]

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Light-bulb moment for stock market behaviour

University of Adelaide physicists have discovered that the timing of electronic orders on the stock market can be mathematically described in the same way as the lifetime of a light bulb. [Full Story]

Upcoming Events

Reminiscences of the Great War: A Flanders Fields Poppy Trail 2016 Exhibition

Friday, 17 June 2016 - Friday, 26 August 2016
Barr Smith Library, Rare Books & Special Collections, Level 1

Elder Hall Evening Concert Series - Schubertiade

Saturday, 30 July 2016, 6:30 pm to 8:45 pm
Elder Hall, University of Adelaide

Annual Chief Justice's Shield Quiz Night

Saturday, 30 July 2016, 7:00 pm to 11:00 pm
Bonython Hall, North Terrace Campus

Launch of new University public sculpture 'Standing Work no. 3'

Thursday, 4 August 2016, 10:30 am to 11:30 am
Goodman Crescent, North Terrace Campus

Walk a mile in my boots

Friday, 5 August 2016, 7:30 am to 9:00 am
Victoria Park on Wakefield Road

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