In 2000, biology professor Çağan Şekercioğlu began building a global database of bird traits that now contains 1.4 million entries covering all known bird species. The database is a rich and versatile resource for biologists. The latest study to draw on Şekercioğlu’s database, “Omnivory in birds is a macroevolutionary sink”, was published Thursday in Nature Communications and examines the role of how birds’ diets affect how new species arise and how others fall to extinction. In a stable environment, being a jack-of-all foods is risky. Omnivorous birds lose out to birds with specialized diets, hence omnivory is generally associated with higher extinction risk and fewer new species. In our human-affected world with disappearing habitats and a changing climate, however, having a broad diet is an advantage and helps omnivorous birds survive while specialists face extinction. Şekercioğlu, a co-author on the paper, is available to discuss the work’s results and implications.
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