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Re: Metaves and Coronaves

   Looking at the alignment, it's an especial pity that we don't get
individual taxa, as one of the 'Glareolidae' species is the quite
distinctive _Pluvianus aegyptius_. (the other is a _Rhinoptilus_ species,
and a more standard courser - no pratincoles in the analysis)

No pratincoles? As a complete layman, I'd expect the flying, short-legged pratincoles and the mostly running, long-legged coursers would be the first to flee each other...

[...] the common ancestor of modern birds is beginning
to look rather like a chook (or rather, a partridge).

The famous "heavy-bodied ground bird" :-)

   I've got a suspicion that, if anything, the correct spelling is
Pterocleidae - I've seen all three, but simply went with the spelling used
by Houde and Fain. I think this question was debated here not so long ago,
wasn't it, with no well-established answer?

Oops, I think it was...

The only known leptosomid besides *L.* itself, which is endemic to
Madagascar, comes from Messel (Mayr & whoever, less than 2 years ago IIRC).

Do you have a reference for this?

Turns out I was right when I remembered *Plesiocathartes*! Check out the 2nd abstract at http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/museum/pbios/abstracts22_1to3.html. I believe I've seen it published, but Google can't find that... It does find, though, that *P.* seems to cover the Eocene through Miocene throughout western Europe.

   I found the biogeography section of Fain & Houde to be somewhat
confused, and had a bit of difficulty trying to establish their point.

If I've understood it, they start with pointing out that the comparable cases of large-scale convergence among mammals have happened on different continents -- Laurasiatheria, Afrotheria and Marsupialia converging on each other. So one should be tempted to look for different geographic origins of Metaves and Coronaves. But such attempts fail; the recent distributions of many bird clades lead one (...Cracraft...) to assume a Gondwanan or Outer Gondwanan origin, but the Palaeogene fossil record shows that many such distributions are in fact relictual pantropical ones. So their point is "we'd like to attribute all that convergence to geographic separation, but we miserably fail at deciphering neoavian phylogeography, so try it yourself".