Good News: The Re-Evolution Of A Once Extinct Species

While much of the traditional news we consume tends to highlight the negative things happening in the world, believe it or not, there are still some amazing people, places, and things going on that truly make the world a brighter place every day. In our newest addition to the Mountain Life feed, we will be highlighting the good news—good things around the world that happen.

First up, we have news from the Indian Ocean, where a species has re-evolved and become un-extinct in a miraculous process called iterative evolution. Iterative evolution occurs when the same or similar structures evolve out of the same common ancestor, but at different times – meaning that the animal actually comes about twice, but in a completely separate process.

Roughly the size of a chicken, the White-throated rail may be meek, but they are certainly resilient.

The bird in question is the White-throated rail, a flightless species that is the last of it’s kind in the Indian Ocean, first went extinct 136,000 years ago according to scientists. These birds come from Madagascar, but have colonised a number of islands in the Indian Ocean over time. Their first extinction occurred due to sea level rise, but after a subsequent drop in sea level, the birds were able to re-evolve due to the lack of predators on the islands.

“We know of no other example in rails, or of birds in general, that demonstrates this phenomenon so evidently. Only on Aldabra, which has the oldest palaeontological record of any oceanic island within the Indian Ocean region, is fossil evidence available that demonstrates the effects of changing sea levels on extinction and recolonisation events,” says Professor David Martill of the University of Portsmouth (via The Independent).

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Scientists believe this is the first instance of iterative evolution they have seen, and it could be an interesting sign of things to come. While there are people working to bring back animals such as Wooly Mammoths, it is interesting to see a natural re-evolution like this with no human interference. What could be next? —ML