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Hotsin, alien bird

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This fascinating story emerges from extensive analysis by geneticists to reconstruct the evolutionary legend of birds: this maddened conquest of the skies led by a handful of surviving dinosaurs.

Called “10,000 Genomes,” the project was launched in 2015. Objective: To sequence and classify the genome of a representative of 34 known bird species, then a representative of 240 families, then one of 2250 genera and finally a representative of nearly 8000 different species. Just draw a beautiful evolutionary tree!

In the coming days, International team 240 families will submit his work for publication (status of orders already done). And, already, they notice it: there is an intruder, an unclassifiable, different one: Hotzin. “Disgusting destructive species”, one of the researchers told us. The hotsin, or “sassa” in Guyanese Creole, is a pheasant-sized bird that lounges in the vegetation of the Amazonian mangroves. His behavior is already strange.

Unique among birds, it bellows like a cow: its chest gives way to a huge crop of fermenting leaves and buds. Other Quirks: The baby bird can instinctively swim even underwater; Each wing has a pair of dinosaur-like claws that allow it to climb trees; He can move on all fours like a quadruped. But what’s most mysterious is its genetic make-up: it’s the only bird in which no cousin species are still alive. He is lost in the tree: he is the only representative of his order, cut down only for him, for lack of something better.

For morphological reasons, it was long associated with chickens and later with cooks. For genetic reasons, it then approached the group of “land birds” (like the peacock), then the order of shorebirds and small waders. But even the new sequencing has nothing to do: the ambiguity remains.

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Without a common ancestor with other birds, it is impossible to trace the origin of its branch. According to some, the mystery of Hotzin will never be solved. So he will forever remain the most mysterious of all birds. A real alien…

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