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DROMORNITHIDS, RATITES etc.



Just a few quick comments on the bird relationship stuff mentioned on 
the list recently. First though, I direct anyone with queries about ratite 
and general bird phylogeny ***TO THE DML ARCHIVES***. Put 
ratite, moa, neornithine or whatever into the search words box and you 
will get results: most aspects of avian phylogeny have been discussed 
to death by Matt Troutman, Ron Orenstein, myself and others on this 
list before.

The idea that dromornithids might be anseriforms, or perhaps close 
relatives of them, has been kicking around for a while - most recently 
because of the new material (has it now been written up?). Popular 
sources that cover this include _Nat. Geo._ some months back and the 
ish of _Sci. Am._ that had an article on new Australian fossil 
carnivores (s.l.). As usual I am sat in a lab without any references to 
hand, so I cannot be helpful and cite these sources. Gastornithiforms 
(_Diatryma_ and pals) might be relatives of anseriforms too - search 
the archives for _Diatryma_, _Gastornis_ or screamers (anhimids) to 
see why (according to Andors) they _might_ be related. As has also 
been discussed before, _Diatryma_ is probably a junior synonym of 
_Gastornis_. Recent work by Livezey, the world expert on anseriform 
evolution and phylogeny, shows that _Presbyornis_ is not just a good 
anseriform (rather than a sort of primitive charadriiform-anseriform-
phoenicopteriform ancestor) but also a close relative of true ducks, 
geese and swans (anatids).

Ratites (IMHO) are not closely related to anseriforms, but are rather 
the sister-group to the neognaths (Galloanserae, Turnicae, Picae, 
Coraciae, Coliae and Passerae of S & A 1990). Though some 
ornithologists still hold out for a polyphyletic view of ratite evolution, 
the idea that the group is monophyletic and outside of Neognathae is 
well supported. Relationships among ratites remain contentious. Kiwis 
were often regarded as the closest relatives of moa: some critiques of 
this idea reject it while the mtDNA study Nick was referring to (by van 
Tuinen et al.) recently found a moa-kiwi clade. Again, check the 
archives: most of the info and all the refs are cited there. Where is the 
website that talks about aquatic ancestry for kiwis? That's a new one 
on me.

And, finally, let me say: hooray for more coelacanths (stay tuned).

"The toilet is blocked and we cannot bath the children until it is 
cleared."
DARREN NAISH 
PALAEOBIOLOGY RESEARCH GROUP
School of Earth, Environmental & Physical Sciences
UNIVERSITY OF PORTSMOUTH
Burnaby Building
Burnaby Road                           email: darren.naish@port.ac.uk
Portsmouth UK                          tel: 01703 446718
P01 3QL