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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2005 Nov;37(2):327-46. Epub 2005 May 31.

Phylogeny of eagles, Old World vultures, and other Accipitridae based on nuclear and mitochondrial DNA.

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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, 1109 Geddes Avenue, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1079, USA.


We assessed phylogenetic relationships for birds of prey in the family Accipitridae using molecular sequence from two mitochondrial genes (1047 bases ND2 and 1041 bases cyt-b) and one nuclear intron (1074 bases beta-fibrinogen intron 7). We sampled representatives of all 14 Accipitridae subfamilies, focusing on four subfamilies of eagles (booted eagles, sea eagles, harpy eagles, and snake eagles) and two subfamilies of Old World vultures (Gypaetinae and Aegypiinae) with nearly all known species represented. Multiple well-supported relationships among accipitrids identified with DNA differ from those traditionally recognized based on morphology or life history traits. Monophyly of sea eagles (Haliaeetinae) and booted eagles (Aquilinae) was supported; however, harpy eagles (Harpiinae), snake eagles (Circaetinae), and Old World vultures were found to be non-monophyletic. The Gymnogene (Polyboroides typus) and the Crane Hawk (Geranospiza caerulescens) were not found to be close relatives, presenting an example of convergent evolution for specialized limb morphology enabling predation on cavity nesting species. Investigation of named subspecies within Hieraaetus fasciatus and H. morphnoides revealed significant genetic differentiation or non-monophyly supporting recognition of H. spilogaster and H. weiskei as distinctive species.

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