Well, I really was very much enthused, inspired and uplifted by the many kind and supportive comments so many of you added to the previous article. Thank you all. So enthused, in fact, that I couldn’t help myself, and took time out of lunch breaks and so on to produce ‘ticking over’ material for Tet Zoo.
As some of you know, I’m hard at work on a major project concerning birds at the moment (and, to the people who made speculations that such project might be lucrative… let me assure you that none of the science writing I do can be described as ‘lucrative’ – no money is involved in this project, for example. Do people realise how much work scientists do for free?). In view of this, I dug out the old image you see here (it was produced in 1997). What does it mean? Here’s an excerpt from the text I’m currently working on…
What appeared to be an empirical approach to the study of the avian tree came to the fore during the 1980s and 90s when Charles Sibley and colleagues used DNA-DNA hybridization to analyse avian relationships. Sibley and Ahlquist (1990) produced a mostly resolved phylogeny, dubbed the ‘Tapestry’, for over 1100 species.
They supported a basal divergence between Eoaves (ratites and tinamous) and Neoaves, and broke the latter down into six major assemblages: Galloanserae (gamebirds and waterfowl), Turnicae (buttonquails), Picae (woodpeckers and kin), Coraciae (hornbills, trogons, rollers and kin), Coliae (collies) and Passerae (everything else, from cuckoos, parrots and pigeons to cranes, waders, raptors, herons, pelicans and passerines). While Sibley and Ahlquist’s (1990) suggestions did much to inspire new work, their DNA-DNA hybridization technique was entirely phenetic and their conclusions were not always supported by their data (Harshman 1994, 2007).
There’s a lot more that could be said, but this was mostly an excuse to re-use the old ‘Tapestry’ picture used at top. Feel free to discuss among yourselves. Lots more on bird phylogeny to appear here in time.
Refs – -
Harshman, J. 1994. Reweaving the Tapestry: what can we learn from Sibley and Ahlquist (1990)? Auk 111, 377-388.
Harshman, J. 2007. Classification and phylogeny of birds. In Jamieson, B. G. M. (ed) Reproductive Biology and Phylogeny of Birds. Science Publishers, Inc. (Enfield, NH), pp. 1-35.
Sibley, C. G. & Ahlquist, J. A. 1990. Phylogeny and Classification of Birds. New Haven: Yale University Press.