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A Phylogenomic Study of Birds Reveals Their Evolutionary History

Science  27 Jun 2008:
Vol. 320, Issue 5884, pp. 1763-1768
DOI: 10.1126/science.1157704

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Abstract

Deep avian evolutionary relationships have been difficult to resolve as a result of a putative explosive radiation. Our study examined ∼32 kilobases of aligned nuclear DNA sequences from 19 independent loci for 169 species, representing all major extant groups, and recovered a robust phylogeny from a genome-wide signal supported by multiple analytical methods. We documented well-supported, previously unrecognized interordinal relationships (such as a sister relationship between passerines and parrots) and corroborated previously contentious groupings (such as flamingos and grebes). Our conclusions challenge current classifications and alter our understanding of trait evolution; for example, some diurnal birds evolved from nocturnal ancestors. Our results provide a valuable resource for phylogenetic and comparative studies in birds.

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