New 'hybrid' hummingbird with unusual glittering gold feathers puzzles scientists

When researchers found a hummingbird with glittering gold feathers, they initially thought a new species had been discovered, but what they actually found was far more unusual.

Published earlier this year in the journal Royal Society Open Science, researchers say the discovery opens the door to more questions about hybridization.

Separate hummingbird species are genetically distinct and typically don’t interbreed with each other, according to a press release about the study from Chicago’s Field Museum, but “hybrids break that rule.

It’s not clear how common hummingbird hybrids like the one in this study are, but the researchers speculate that hybrids like this one might contribute to the diversity of structural colors found across the hummingbird family tree.”

Both the Pink-throated Brilliant hummingbird and the Rufous-webbed Brilliant hummingbird have bright pink throats, so researchers wanted to understand how the two combined would produce a gold-throated hummingbird.

Using the speed of color evolution seen in hummingbirds, researchers estimated it would take 6-10 million years for this drastic pink-gold color shift to evolve in a single species.

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