The Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig

is a research museum of the Leibniz Association

Biogeography of Neotropical hummingbirds

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Project title: 
Biogeography of Neotropical hummingbirds (Trochilidae)
Object of research: 
Birds

Description

With more than 340 currently known species distributed from North to South America, hummingbirds (family Trochilidae) are one of the world's most diverse and widespread bird families at all; in the New World, they are surpassed only by the Tyrannidae. By means of their special adaptations to nectarivory (e.g., bill morphology, flight) they inhabit numerous habitats from the coastal to the mountains, taking on the role of insects in climatically unfavorable regions as the most important pollinators of flowering plants. Especially in the Andes they are highly diversified, where more than half of all representatives can be found. Their often small-scale distribution suggests many independent, partly recent speciation and radiation events that were likely correlated mainly with glacial phases. The recent biogeography, morphology, geographical variation, taxonomy and systematics are often still poorly understood in many Andean species, which are in the focus of the current research project that is mainly based on the analysis of skin specimens found in scientific collections. Future systematic assessments should include molecular genetic data of selected taxa, because current evidence regarding large-scale systematics of hummingbirds appears partially unsatisfactory. To date, a number of taxa could be already scientifically recognized as new, and further discoveries in the course of the project are likely to be expected.

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