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African neognaths



The African neognaths

With all the recent studies regarding the placental radiation,and the subsequent "discovery" of Afrotheria,one might wonder if the same holds true for Tertiary neognaths.I've been examining evidence for neognaths evolution en geographic origin,based on fossil evidence and DNA-studies to look wether there are groups wich might have been ancestrally African.All in all I came to this conclusion,and I would like to know what certain people on the list think about it.A reply would thus be nice.

I found these groups to be ancestrally African:

-the "stork-cathartid-pelican-shoebill-hamerkop"-grouping (I will refer to them as the suborder Ciconii of an order Ciconiiformes also including cormorants,anhingas,gannets,pelagornithids and possibly tropicbirds and teratorns.)These groups of bird have except for cathartids and pelicans all their earliest fossil members African. Storks are first represented by Palaeoephipiorynchus from the Fayum (Early Oligocene) formations of Egypt.Later members also appear,totally different from other birds,elsewhere.This seems suggestive of an non-Eurasian,non-American origin for these birds. I think they may have spread out of Africa together with Afrotherian emblithopods and desmostylians wich are also found in the Oligocene outside their original African range.
Cathartids seem to be their closest relatives but first appear in Eocene Europe,they aren't found as fossils in Africa but they may have developed their eventual form after spreading from that continent. During the early Palaeogene we do actually have some traffic between Europe and Africa in either direction.(creodonts,primates and marsupials to,and ostriches from Africa.)
The three remaining groups are connected with the former two by a number of characters and DNA-studies,and are in my eyes an essentially African group.Shoebills and hamerkops have never been found outside Africa and pelicans first appear as fossils during the Early Miocene in Europe.And surprise,surprise,it was at this time that Africa and Eurasia became connected.This group,the "Pelecanoidea" seems an early African radiation of inland freshwaterbirds only able to leave their homes after this became connected with another landmass.


-The musophagids or touracos.Their first fossils are also from the Fayum,concordant with an African model of origin.Nevertheless,they are,as fossils,knowm from Europe but this is only in the Miocene.They could easily have spread from Africa to Eurasia in the Neogene,only to become extinct after some time.

-Parrots and colies. I think these two groups wich are really ancient and strange oddball-neognaths are each other's closest living relative.The way they originated and spread is more complex then that of the former groups,but can be explained.The most primitive living parrots,(and believe me I'm very familiar with parrots, I can know.)are the vasa-parrots Coracopsis from Madagascar,the Comoros and the Seychelles.The two species in this genus,vasa and nigra,are really weird and primitive,and originally African. I think they proof that the entire parrot-crown group originated in Africa,spreading across Antarctica to Australia and South America.The primitive Palaeogene quercypsittids are also African in my view and spread in the same way as cathartids,ostriches and,in my view,messelirisorids and "sandcoleiforms" did.Then being replaced in africa by modern parrots and later on in Europe as well,the oldest European modern parrot possibly being Archaeopsittacus from the Late Oligocene or (more likely)early Miocene of France.
Alltough the modern colies (Coliidae) are no doubt a recent Eurasian arrival,first evolving in Eurasia,their roots may have been African. I think these peculiar Palaeogene paraphyletic primitive coliiformes,called "sandcoleiforms" were an originally African assemblage finding it's earliest Paleogene way to europe at the same time as their quercypsittid relatives.Here they evolved into modern coliids wich later spread and repopulated Africa.
From this it must be clear that I don't support the columbiform-psittaciform
relation wich is usually advocated.

-the Bucerotimorphae.This grouping has been created by DNA-studies and is comprised of two orders,the Upupiformes or hoopoes (Upupidae,Phoenculidae,Rhinopomastidae and extinct Messelirisornithidae )and Bucerotiformes,the hornbills (Bucorvidae,Bucerotidae). A strange not to say bizarre grouping of birds.They first appear in Middle Eocene Messel with the Messelirisornithid hoopoes.These seem to have spread out of Africa in the same way and the same time as cathartids,quercypsittids and "sandcoleiforms".These seem to have become extinct at the Eocene-Oligocene boundary and no hoopoes are known from Eurasia until the Miocene.Again,we see, the Miocene.Again they could have spread from Africa.Only the upupids are present in modern Eurasia but the Miocene species were phoeniculids.
Hornbills have a disturbingly meager fossil record,despite some claims,not present in Palaeogene European fossil communities.There's only one fossil species-Bucorvus brailloni-from Early Miocene Morocco.Bucorvids are distinctive,ancient and only found in Africa. Within the bucerotids,the African representatives are phylogenetically more diverse,thus together with the fact that their closest relatives are African illustrating that this group is ancestrally African,only radiating in Asia after the Miocene.


-Buttonquails or turnicids. Remarkable birds, these little critters. Not related to any other group,according to DNA-studies these comprise a great ancient lineage of birds,representing the Turniciae.They are not known as fossils,despite great and informative fossil communities in Europe and North America.I think they are members of an ancient lineage of neognaths,possibly surviving there after the KT extinctions after being almost completely annihilated then.

This is it for now. I think there may be other ancestrally African groups,like the Passerida,mesites and columbinine pigeons but I won't discuss them cause I'm still trying to make up my mind regarding them and their origins.I would also like to mention the fact that I think,with grebes being flamingos closest relatives according to DNA-studies and them only appearing truly recognisable in the early Miocene,they may be derived and totally differently specialised derivatives from the junctitarsids.

I would really like to get some reactions on this as well as possible extra points of interest.