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Flight of the Dodo (and solitaire)



While reading through the Feb 22 issue of _Science_ (the same issue that
mentions the dinosaur "listserv" in the _Syntarsus_/_Megapnosaurus_ fiasco)
I came across this article:

Shapiro et al. (2002).  Flight of the Dodo.  Nature 295: 1683.

Using two mitochondrial genes (12S rRNA, cytB) the authors re-affirm the
current view that the dodo (_Raphus cucullatus_) and solitaire (_Pezophaps
solitaria_) are nested *within* the pigeon family (Columbidae), rather than
representing a separate lineage (Raphidae).  The dodo and solitaire come out
as sister taxa in this study.  Further, both these flightless columbiforms
belong to the didunculine clade (as noted by previous studies, as well as on
the DML), which also includes the New Guinean crowned pigeons, the bizarre
tooth-billed pigeon and the Nicobar pigeon.

The use of mitochondrial sequences in building phylogenies is close to home
for me, and I have a few queries on this paper that I'll spare the list by
not mentioning.  However, the molecular clock data is interesting, since it
suggests a divergence time (25.6 Ma - Oligocene) between the dodo and
solitaire that is actually older than the estimated creation of the islands
of Mauritius and Rodrigues (6.8 - 7.8 Ma) based on geological data.

By the way, wasn't there a solitaire on Reunion too?


Tim


------------------------------------------------------------ 

Timothy J. Williams 

USDA-ARS Researcher 
Agronomy Hall 
Iowa State University 
Ames IA 50014 

Phone: 515 294 9233 
Fax:   515 294 3163