Ancient DNA reveals elephant birds and kiwi are sister taxa and clarifies ratite bird evolution

  title={Ancient DNA reveals elephant birds and kiwi are sister taxa and clarifies ratite bird evolution},
  author={Kieren J. Mitchell and Bastien Llamas and Julien Soubrier and Nicolas J. Rawlence and Trevor H. Worthy and Jamie R. Wood and Michael S. Y. Lee and Alan Cooper},
  pages={898 - 900}
The evolution of the ratite birds has been widely attributed to vicariant speciation, driven by the Cretaceous breakup of the supercontinent Gondwana. The early isolation of Africa and Madagascar implies that the ostrich and extinct Madagascan elephant birds (Aepyornithidae) should be the oldest ratite lineages. We sequenced the mitochondrial genomes of two elephant birds and performed phylogenetic analyses, which revealed that these birds are the closest relatives of the New Zealand kiwi and… 

The Evolution and Fossil Record of Palaeognathous Birds (Neornithes: Palaeognathae)

The extant diversity of the avian clade Palaeognathae is composed of the iconic flightless ratites (ostriches, rheas, kiwi, emus, and cassowaries), and the volant tinamous of Central and South

Ancient DNA from the extinct Haitian cave-rail (Nesotrochis steganinos) suggests a biogeographic connection between the Caribbean and Old World

A nearly complete mitochondrial genome of Nesotrochis steganinos is recovered, discovering that it is not a rallid but instead is sister to Sarothruridae, volant birds now restricted to Africa and New Guinea, and the recently extinct, flightless Aptornithidae of New Zealand, which suggests a widespread or highly dispersive most recent common ancestor of the group.

The evolution of giant flightless birds and novel phylogenetic relationships for extinct fowl (Aves, Galloanseres)

Trait analyses showed that while gigantism and flightlessness evolved repeatedly in groups, diet is constrained by phylogeny: all giant Galloanseres and palaeognaths are herbivores or mainly herbivorous, and giant neoavians are zoophagous or omnivorous.

Whole-Genome Analyses Resolve the Phylogeny of Flightless Birds (Palaeognathae) in the Presence of an Empirical Anomaly Zone

Distributions of empirical gene trees confirm that the most common gene tree topology for each marker type differs from the species tree, signifying the existence of an empirical anomaly zone in palaeognaths.

Ancient mitochondrial genomes clarify the evolutionary history of New Zealand's enigmatic acanthisittid wrens.

Ancient DNA from the extinct South American giant glyptodont Doedicurus sp. (Xenarthra: Glyptodontidae) reveals that glyptodonts evolved from Eocene armadillos

The osteological novelties of glyptodonts and their specialization for grazing appear to have evolved rapidly during the Late Eocene to Early Miocene, coincident with global temperature decreases and a shift from wet closed forest towards drier open woodland and grassland across much of South America.

Ancient DNA from the koala lemur puts Madagascar on the paleogenomic map

  • Kieren J. Mitchell
  • Environmental Science
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
  • 2021
In the Southern Hemisphere, there are two exceptionally large noncontinental landmasses with very long histories of geographical isolation—New Zealand and Madagascar. Both landmasses have unique and



Tinamous and moa flock together: mitochondrial genome sequence analysis reveals independent losses of flight among ratites.

It is inferred that flight to have been lost among ratites multiple times in temporally close association with the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event, circumvents requirements for transient microcontinents and island chains to explain discordance between ratite phylogeny and patterns of continental breakup.

Phylogenomic evidence for multiple losses of flight in ratite birds

A phylogenetic analyses of 20 unlinked nuclear genes reveal a genome-wide signal that unequivocally places tinamous within ratites, making ratites polyphyletic and suggesting multiple losses of flight.

Complete mitochondrial genome sequences of two extinct moas clarify ratite evolution

This first molecular view of the break-up of Gondwana provides a new temporal framework for speciation events within other Gondwanan biota and can be used to evaluate competing biogeographical hypotheses.

Complete mitochondrial DNA geonome sequences of extinct birds: ratite phylogenetics and the vicariance biogeography hypothesis

  • O. HaddrathA. Baker
  • Biology
    Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences
  • 2001
Most of the major ratite lineages fit the vicariance biogeography hypothesis, the exceptions being the ostrich and the kiwi, which require dispersal to explain their present distribution.

Multiple nuclear genes and retroposons support vicariance and dispersal of the palaeognaths, and an Early Cretaceous origin of modern birds

  • O. HaddrathA. Baker
  • Biology, Environmental Science
    Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
  • 2012
A species tree for the major palaeognath lineages is presented using 27 nuclear genes and 27 archaic retroposon insertions, showing that rheas is sister to the kiwis, emu and cassowaries, and ratite paraphyly because tinamous are sister to moas.

The evolutionary history of the extinct ratite moa and New Zealand Neogene paleogeography

This work synthesizes mitochondrial phylogenetic information from 263 subfossil moa specimens from across NZ with morphological, ecological, and new geological data to create the first comprehensive phylogeny, taxonomy, and evolutionary timeframe for all of the species of an extinct order.

Early penguin fossils, plus mitochondrial genomes, calibrate avian evolution.

A test for events around the Late Cretaceous is reported by describing the earliest penguin fossils, analyzing complete mitochondrial genomes from an albatross, a petrel, and a loon, and describing the gradual decline of pterosaurs at the same time modern birds radiate.

New morphological evidence supports congruent phylogenies and Gondwana vicariance for palaeognathous birds

A morphological phylogeny based mainly on new characters from the tongue apparatus and cranial osteology, with a theoretical ancestor as outgroup is reported, fully consistent with a Gondwana vicariance model of evolution.

Definitive fossil evidence for the extant avian radiation in the Cretaceous

A rare, partial skeleton from the Maastrichtian of Antarctica is identified as the first Cretaceous fossil definitively placed within the extant bird radiation, and phylogenetic analyses supported by independent histological data indicate that a new species, Vegavis iaai, is a part of Anseriformes (waterfowl) and is most closely related to Anatidae, which includes true ducks.

Phylogenetic relationships of the Australian Oligo-Miocene ratite Emuarius gidju Casuariidae.

A phylogenetic analysis of morphological data robustly shows that E. gidju is the sister taxon of Dromaius and together these taxa form a clade that is sister to Casuarius, indicating that the evolution towards enhanced cursorality that characterises Dromaeus took place after the divergence of the emu-cassowary lineages and was likely not the driving mechanism of this divergence.