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Same Traits, Different Island: Study Highlights Evolution Quirks

By Cornell Chronicle

November 10, 2022

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Researchers at Cornell University and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory used machine learning to find out why two populations of flycatchers that evolved on different Solomon Islands separately developed all-black plumage.

An algorithm helped the researchers quantify mutation patterns in the flycatcher family tree.

Explained Cornell's Leonardo Campagna, "We train the computer to recognize specific evolutionary patterns for when a particular genetic trait started, how strong natural or sexual selection was, and how quickly it moved through a population.

"We can then ask the trained algorithm to tell us the most likely scenario that generated the data that we observe in the present populations. It's like going back in time."

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