Ratite-like neoteny induced by neonatal thyroidectomy of European starlings, Sturnus vulgaris

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Abstract

The Ratites (ostriches, emus, etc.) are thought to be neotenous descendants of flying birds, rather than primitive birds, even though they became a separate group early in the evolution of birds. This is because of the juvenile, rather than primitive, condition of the palate, skull-sutures and feathers. We report here that European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) thyroidectomized soon after hatching also show neoteny, retaining many juvenile features (general morphology, palate, skull-sutures, feathers, behaviour), while at the same time becoming sexually mature. The juvenile characters were similar to those found in Ratites, suggesting that hypothyroidism may have been a factor in the evolution of the Ratites.

Ancillary