The evolution of pantropically distributed clades has puzzled palaeo- and neontologists for decades regarding the different hypotheses about where they originated. In this study, we explored how a pantropical distribution arose in a diverse clade with a rich fossil history: the avian order Coraciiformes. This group has played a central role in the debate of the biogeographical history of Neoaves. However, the order lacked a coherent species tree to inform study of its evolutionary dynamics. Here, we present the first complete species tree of Coraciiformes, produced with 4858 ultraconserved elements, which supports two clades: (1) Old World-restricted bee-eaters, rollers and ground-rollers; and (2) New World todies and motmots, and cosmopolitan kingfishers. Our results indicated two pulses of diversification: (1) major lineages of Coraciiformes arose in Laurasia approximately 57 Ma, followed by independent dispersals into equatorial regions, possibly due to tracking tropical habitat into the lower latitudes-the Coracii (Coraciidae + Brachypteraciidae) into the Afrotropics, bee-eaters throughout the Old World tropics, and kingfishers into the Australasian tropics; and (2) diversification of genera in the tropics during the Miocene and Pliocene. Our study supports the important role of Laurasia as the geographical origin of a major pantropical lineage and provides a new framework for comparative analyses in this charismatic bird radiation.
Keywords: Coracii; North American gateway hypothesis; avian systematics; historical biogeography; macroevolutionary dynamics; target capture.
Conflict of interest statement
We declare we have no competing interests.
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