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[dinosaur] Avian family-level tree of life resolved (free pdf)

Ben Creisler

A new paper with free pdf:

H. Kuhl, C. Frankl-Vilches, A. Bakker, G. Mayr, G. Nikolaus, S. T. Boerno, S. Klages, B. Timmermann & M. Gahr (2020)
An unbiased molecular approach using 3âUTRs resolves the avian family-level tree of life.
Molecular Biology and Evolution, msaa191 (advance online publication)
doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/molbev/msaa191

Presumably, due to a rapid early diversification, major parts of the higher-level phylogeny of birds are still resolved controversially in different analyses or are considered unresolvable. To address this problem, we produced an avian tree of life, which includes molecular sequences of one or several species of ~90% of the currently recognized family-level taxa (429 species, 379 genera) including all 106 for the non-passerines and 115 for the passerines (Passeriformes). The unconstrained analyses of noncoding 3-prime untranslated region (3âUTR) sequences and those of coding sequences yielded different trees. In contrast to the coding sequences, the 3âUTR sequences resulted in a well-resolved and stable tree topology. The 3âUTR contained, unexpectedly, transcription factor binding motifs that were specific for different higher-level taxa. In this tree, grebes and flamingos are the sister clade of all other Neoaves, which are subdivided into five major clades. All non-passerine taxa were placed with robust statistical support including the long-time enigmatic hoatzin (Opisthocomiformes), which was found being the sister taxon of the Caprimulgiformes. The comparatively late radiation of family-level clades of the songbirds (oscine Passeriformes) contrasts with the attenuated diversification of non-passeriform taxa since the early Miocene. This correlates with the evolution of vocal production learning, an important speciation factor, which is ancestral for songbirds and evolved convergent only in hummingbirds and parrots. Since 3âUTR-based phylotranscriptomics resolved the avian family-level tree of life, we suggest that this procedure will also resolve the all-species avian tree of life

Press release

Avian tree of life better resolved


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