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Papers Research

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Coursework help

very informative blog.. nice work bro

Chuck Hagner

Thank you for these interesting comments. I believe the authors would agree wholeheartedly that their conclusions don't exist in a vacuum. They cite both of the works you mentioned, Darren.

Also, please note that I have edited a sentence to correct an error. I originally wrote: "And that flighted tinamous evolved from flightless ostriches, says ornithologist Shannon J. Hackett of Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History, one of the lead authors, 'can change the way people look at the evolution of flight.'” She said no such thing. I should have chosen my words more carefully.

Darren Naish

Excellent summary - can I just make the point though, that most of the odd and/or counter-intuitive relationships recovered in this study are not really new, but have been published in other papers over the past few years. The idea that there might be a clade that includes grebes, flamingos, mesites, pigeons, sandgrouse, tropicbirds etc (it's been called Metaves) was published in 2004 (Fain & Houde 2006), for example, and a 2006 study (Ericson et al. 2006) found passerines to group together with falcons, psittaciforms and seriemas. I'm not down-playing the significance of the new paper, just pointing out that it's conclusions don't exist in a vacuum. The fact that different teams of authors now seem to be finding evidence for similar groupings is particularly exciting.

Refs - -

Ericson, P. G. P., Anderson, C. L., Britton, T., Elzanowski, A., Johansson, U. S., Källersjö, M., Ohlson, J. I., Parsons, T. J., Zuccon, D. & Mayr, G. 2006. Diversification of Neoaves: integration of molecular sequence data and fossils. Biology Letters doi:10.1098/rsbl.2006.0523

Fain, M. G. & Houde, P. 2004. Parallel radiations in the primary clades of birds. Evolution 58, 2558-2573.

Jerry Friedman

Very interesting things here. For instance, I hadn't heard the idea that the falcons were closer to the passerines than to the hawks (although Wikipedia says putting the hawks and the falcons in separate orders is popular in Europe).

On the other hand, I hope the authors aren't touting the part about the tinamous as news! I have a book from 1978 (/Bird Families of the World/) that says the tinamous are probably related to the ratites, especially the rheas. That sounds like having them within the ostrich group. And I can't imagine how their ancestry could even hint that they evolved from flightless species, rather than flightlessness evolving independently in the ratite families, since flightlessness has evolved many times. (If they presented morphological evidence, that's different.)

Likewise this '78 book says loons and grebes aren't related, just placed side by side, and I think that statement is decades older than that. I also think a flamingo-grebe connection has been around for some years, though not a consensus. So many of the results of this study are corroboration, not revolution. And why shouldn't parrots be close to songbirds? Or Piciformes part of Coraciiformes, when they're always placed next to each other?

I can make a third sweeping, succinct statement: "Significant parts of this paper are wrong." I just can't guess which. But I'm not expecting to see the last major changes to bird taxonomy in my lifetime (say 30 or 40 more years).

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