Scientists have unveiled the most comprehensive bird "family tree" ever devised, using genetic data from 48 species to trace how modern bird lineages arose and flourished after the mass extinction that killed off the dinosaurs.

The work by researchers from 20 countries helps clarify the evolutionary relationships of modern bird groups and reveals the genetic underpinning of traits such as singing, toothlessness, colorful feathers and color vision.

The scientists decoded the genomes, an organism's genetic material, of 45 bird species and analyzed those of three others previously sequenced. The list covered nearly all living bird groups.