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Evolution. 2006 Feb;60(2):411-2; discussion 413-4.

The tempo of avian diversification: a comment on Johnson and Cicero.

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  • 1Bell Museum, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota 55108, USA.


Johnson and Cicero (2004) claimed that inspection of a distribution of uncorrected mitochondrial DNA avian sister-taxon distances illustrated that the late Pleistocene was an important time for avian speciation. They believed this finding to be at odds with conclusions of Klicka and Zink (1997). However, both studies document recent speciation events. More germane to the discussion is what is meant by an "important" time for speciation, which we take to mean above some baseline diversification rate. We constructed a null distribution of sister-taxon distances based on a model of constant speciation and extinction rates. The empirical distribution of sister-taxon distances in Johnson and Cicero (2004) did not differ from the null model. Therefore, our analysis of Johnson and Cicero's data suggests that the late Pleistocene was no more important for avian speciation than any other time during this time period.

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