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How the Galápagos cormorant lost the ability to fly

Galapagas cormorant (l) Caroline Duffie Judy / Brandt's cormorant (r) Alan Schmierer/Flickr

Scientists report they have narrowed in on the genetic changes that made the iconic Galápagos cormorant unable to fly. The researchers found mutations that may have shortened the bones in the bird's wings, a finding they say may help to better understand the genetic factors play in some rare bone disorders in humans.

"We were quite surprised to discover that the Galápagos cormorant had accumulated a large number of mutations in a particular group of genes, which when mutated in humans lead to problems in bone development," Alejandro Burga, UCLA geneticist and lead author of study.