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, 2 (4), 543-7

Diversification of Neoaves: Integration of Molecular Sequence Data and Fossils


Diversification of Neoaves: Integration of Molecular Sequence Data and Fossils

Per G P Ericson et al. Biol Lett.


Patterns of diversification and timing of evolution within Neoaves, which includes almost 95% of all bird species, are virtually unknown. On the other hand, molecular data consistently indicate a Cretaceous origin of many neoavian lineages and the fossil record seems to support an Early Tertiary diversification. Here, we present the first well-resolved molecular phylogeny for Neoaves, together with divergence time estimates calibrated with a large number of stratigraphically and phylogenetically well-documented fossils. Our study defines several well-supported clades within Neoaves. The calibration results suggest that Neoaves, after an initial split from Galloanseres in Mid-Cretaceous, diversified around or soon after the K/T boundary. Our results thus do not contradict palaeontological data and show that there is no solid molecular evidence for an extensive pre-Tertiary radiation of Neoaves.


Figure 1
Figure 1
Family-level relationships within Neoaves estimated by Bayesian analysis of five nuclear genes (5007 nucleotide positions). Nodes that received a posterior probability value of less than 95% have been collapsed. Note that the branch lengths are not proportional to the number of nucleotide substitutions along each branch. Neoavian families fall into a few reciprocally monophyletic clades (coloured) that roughly correspond to ecological adaptations of extant taxa. Nodal numbers correspond to clades discussed in the text. Letters in boxes, referring to table 3 in the electronic supplementary material, indicate fossil calibration points.
Figure 2
Figure 2
Chronogram (calibrated ultrametric tree with branch lengths proportional to time) for Neoaves estimated using PATHd8. Note that the split between Palaeognathae (represented by Rheidae and Apterygidae) and Neognathae is not shown, but estimated to be 177 Myr ago. We do not consider this age to be reliable due to difficulties in aligning the intron sequences of palaeognaths with those of the other taxa.

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