Diversification of Neoaves: integration of molecular sequence data and fossils

Biol Lett. 2006 Dec 22;2(4):543-7. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2006.0523.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Birds / anatomy & histology
  • Birds / classification*
  • Birds / genetics
  • Classification / methods
  • Fossils*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny*
  • Time Factors