Weird but true: bird breasts

Mysterious changes in bird anatomy has researchers baffled, says Nature Climate Change

These days we’re used to birdwatchers spotting little brown birdies with massive wingspans and huge pouches on their breasts. But that’s not how it happened hundreds of years ago, according to scientists.

Scientists have discovered a surprising shift in bird anatomy that has baffled many biologists. On previous visits to an Egyptian archaeological site dating back more than 3,000 years, scientists have seen a startling few hundred years of change in the shape of some birds.

Those who have visited the ancient ruins say they have observed something truly extraordinary: birds in ancient times had symmetrical breast bones, but now had extremely large breasts. Some birds even show three breasts on their chests, like modern man’s. Some of the features mimic birds’ traditional habits, such as breast feeding and bird-watching, suggesting that those earlier birds were active during the day and at night.

However, modern bird species were on the decline over this time, despite a lifestyle suited to an age with less strenuous agriculture. How this could have been possibly happened, researchers are finding.

• For up-to-date climate change information watch theguardian.com/climatechange

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