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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2004 Mar;30(3):516-26.

Phylogeny of shorebirds, gulls, and alcids (Aves: Charadrii) from the cytochrome-b gene: parsimony, Bayesian inference, minimum evolution, and quartet puzzling.

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  • 1Department of Biology and Biochemistry, University of Bath, 4 South, Claverton Down, Bath BA2 7AY, UK.


Charadrii (shorebirds, gulls, and alcids) have exceptional diversity in ecological, behavioral, and life-history traits. A phylogenetic framework is necessary to fully understand the relationships among these traits. Despite several attempts to resolve the phylogeny of the Charadrii, none have comprehensively utilized molecular sequence data. Complete and partial cytochrome-b gene sequences for 86 Charadrii and five Falconides species (as outgroup taxa) were obtained from GenBank and aligned. We analyzed the resulting matrices using parsimony, Bayesian inference, minimum evolution, and quartet puzzling methods. Posterior probabilities, decay indices, and bootstrapping provide strong support for four major lineages consisting of gulls, alcids, plovers, and sandpipers, respectively. The broad structure of the trees differ significantly from all previous hypotheses of Charadrii phylogeny in placing the plovers at the base of the tree below the sandpipers in a pectinate sequence towards a large clade of gulls and alcids. The parsimony, Bayesian, and minimum evolution models provide strong evidence for this phylogenetic hypothesis. This is further corroborated by non-tree based measures of support and conflict (Lento plots). The quartet puzzling trees are poorly resolved and inconclusive.

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