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, 116 (16), 7916-7925

Earth History and the Passerine Superradiation


Earth History and the Passerine Superradiation

Carl H Oliveros et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A.


Avian diversification has been influenced by global climate change, plate tectonic movements, and mass extinction events. However, the impact of these factors on the diversification of the hyperdiverse perching birds (passerines) is unclear because family level relationships are unresolved and the timing of splitting events among lineages is uncertain. We analyzed DNA data from 4,060 nuclear loci and 137 passerine families using concatenation and coalescent approaches to infer a comprehensive phylogenetic hypothesis that clarifies relationships among all passerine families. Then, we calibrated this phylogeny using 13 fossils to examine the effects of different events in Earth history on the timing and rate of passerine diversification. Our analyses reconcile passerine diversification with the fossil and geological records; suggest that passerines originated on the Australian landmass ∼47 Ma; and show that subsequent dispersal and diversification of passerines was affected by a number of climatological and geological events, such as Oligocene glaciation and inundation of the New Zealand landmass. Although passerine diversification rates fluctuated throughout the Cenozoic, we find no link between the rate of passerine diversification and Cenozoic global temperature, and our analyses show that the increases in passerine diversification rate we observe are disconnected from the colonization of new continents. Taken together, these results suggest more complex mechanisms than temperature change or ecological opportunity have controlled macroscale patterns of passerine speciation.

Keywords: Passeriformes; biogeography; climate; diversification; macroevolution.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


Fig. 1.
Fig. 1.
Family-level phylogenetic relationships in passerines reconciled from concatenation and coalescent analyses (connects to top of Fig. 2 at the circled star). Maximum likelihood bootstrap support (BS) values are indicated by boxes (BS > 70) or circles (BS < 70) at nodes. Node ages were estimated using 13 fossil calibrations in BEAST on nodes indicated by empty blue circles; 95% credible intervals are shown with orange bars. Ancestral areas were estimated under the DEC + j model using BioGeoBEARS from the distribution of clades represented by each tip [shown by boxes at tips coded according to the map (Inset)]. Light blue and pink bars indicate Oligocene glaciation and warming events, respectively. The estimate of Cenozoic global surface temperatures (red curve) was taken from ref. . Branches with the strongest support for diversification rate shifts are indicated by pink arrows in their descendant node for internal branches or at the base of the branch for terminal branches. Geological and climatic events are indicated above the timeline with descriptions provided in the key (Inset). Plei., Pleistocene; Plio., Pliocene.
Fig. 2.
Fig. 2.
Family-level phylogenetic relationships in passerines reconciled from concatenation and coalescent analyses (connects to bottom of Fig. 1 at the circled star). Biogeographic reconstruction including fossil taxa (Inset, tree) yields identical ancestral areas for crown lineages of passerines, suboscines, and oscines (also SI Appendix, Fig. S8). Plei., Pleistocene; Plio., Pliocene.
Fig. 3.
Fig. 3.
Comparison of date estimates of key nodes in passerine phylogeny across three fossil calibration schemes (sets A–C; a detailed description is provided in Materials and Methods) using log-normally distributed priors. Bars represent 95% credible intervals of joint priors [Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) without data] and posteriors of random samples of 25 loci. Color boxes in the heading for each node indicate the set(s) of calibrations in which the node was used as a calibration point. Date estimates from previous studies (–5, 19) for the same node are also shown, if available.
Fig. 4.
Fig. 4.
Estimate of episodic diversification rate of passerines (solid line) and 95% credible interval (light blue band) based on RevBayes analysis of our chronogram (Figs. 1 and 2) across time periods of 2 million y. Global deep ocean temperature data used in the analysis (dotted red line) were taken from ref. . Geological and climatic events from Figs. 1 and 2 (excluding events a and b) are indicated above the time line with descriptions provided in the key (Inset). Plei., Pleistocene; Plio., Pliocene.

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