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African neognaths



>-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.)

Storks could very well be an old primarily African group. There is no
strong evidence that Cathartids have ever occurred outside the Americas.
All Old World records are more or less doubtful. Teratorns are not
necessarily closely related to cathartids and are almost certainly an
originally South American group. There is really no evidence to pin down
the origin of the seabirds but a Tethyan origin seems reasonble.

>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.

Shoebills & hamerkops are very probably african. Pelicans - possibly.

>-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.

I agree

>-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.

There are primitive parrots from the Eocene of Europe. If the Vasa parrots
are really the basal branch in the psittacid tree it would seem to support
a Gondwanan (S America-Antarctica-Madagascar/India-Australia) origin rather
than an African one. Madagascar is not really a part of Africa
biogeographically speaking.
The Coliidae is an odd remnant of a large but not well understood Paleogene
radiation of non-passerine small birds which have been almost completely
supplanted by passerines. They might be African in origin, but they might
just as well be Eurasian.
Ostriches could also just as well be an Eurasian as an African group (no
pre-Miocene African record). There were other large flightless birds in
Africa (Stromeria, Eremopezus, perhaps "Psammornis", whatever that was)
which are presumably originally African.

>-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.

Could be, but the evidence is weak, particularily for the hoopoes.


>-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.

I suppose You mean not _closely_ related to any other group. Actually there
are Pleistocene fossils from Australia, China and Egypt. Why shouldn't they
be a primarily Australian group by the way? They are more diverse and a
more important part of the avifauna there than anywhere else.

>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.

DNA studies, fossils and the modern distribution of taxa all rather
strongly support a Gondwanan (S
America-Antarctica-Madagascar/India-Australia) origin for passerines, with
the oscine passerines being an originally Australian/New Zealand
(=Xenicidae) group. 
As for the mesites in my opinion this is perhaps the oddest family among
the neognaths and I see no reason to consider it as anything but than a
very old Madagascar isolate. 
Recent DNA studies seem to indicate that there is no such thing as
"columbinine" pigeons, but that the Old World and New World _Columba_ are
an example of convergent evolution.
Grebes have traditionally been considered a South American group, but the
evidence is rather weak (higher diversity there than anywhere else). No
realo fossil evidence.

I can think of several groups that are more plausibly African, Jacanas and
Ospreys for example.

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

At the present time it is not easy (or perhaps too easy?) to speculate on
these matters since we have so few Paleogene avifaunas from the southern
continents. What we need are good Eocene avifaunas from Australia and
Africa (there must be another Messel somewhere)!

Tommy Tyrberg