On Their Own
Five species of Hawaiian birds—all now extinct—looked so much like Asian and Australian birds called honeyeaters that scientists thought they were all in the same family. The birds had curved bills to reach inside flowers and long, brushy tongues to lap up nectar. But a new genetic analysis by Smithsonian scientists of preserved Hawaiian specimens shows that the birds constituted their own family and were unrelated to true honeyeaters. The resemblance was an extreme case of "convergent evolution," in which lineages evolve strikingly similar adaptations—in this case, for feeding from flowers.