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Biol Lett. 2006 Dec 22;2(4):543-7.

Diversification of Neoaves: integration of molecular sequence data and fossils.

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  • 1Department of Vertebrate Zoology and Molecular Systematics Laboratory, Swedish Museum of Natural History, PO Box 50007, 10405 Stockholm, Sweden.


Patterns of diversification and timing of evolution within Neoaves, which includes almost 95% of all bird species, are virtually unknown. On the other hand, molecular data consistently indicate a Cretaceous origin of many neoavian lineages and the fossil record seems to support an Early Tertiary diversification. Here, we present the first well-resolved molecular phylogeny for Neoaves, together with divergence time estimates calibrated with a large number of stratigraphically and phylogenetically well-documented fossils. Our study defines several well-supported clades within Neoaves. The calibration results suggest that Neoaves, after an initial split from Galloanseres in Mid-Cretaceous, diversified around or soon after the K/T boundary. Our results thus do not contradict palaeontological data and show that there is no solid molecular evidence for an extensive pre-Tertiary radiation of Neoaves.

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