I’ve just heard the tragic and saddening news that ornithologist Bradley Livezey died yesterday morning (Tuesday 8th February, 2011) following a car crash. It seems that his car lost traction due to snow and ice on the road surface and then collided with another vehicle. Brad was 56. I never met him, but regarded him as a very friendly and co-operative correspondent.
Brad was a leading ornithologist, based at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. After receiving a bachelor’s degree at Oregon State University in 1976, he was awarded a master of science degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s wildlife ecology department in 1979. He went on to earn a master of arts degree in 1984 at the University of Kansas, and received his doctorate there in 1985. His impact on the field of avian systematics and phylogeny, and in particular on our understanding of the evolution of flightlessness (e.g., Livezey 1988, 1989, 1990, 1992), was enormous. Many of his proposals were controversial and he was certainly critical of others where he felt it appropriate. He definitely stimulated a great deal of discussion and further work, and his papers are extraordinary for the amount of data and analysis he packed in to each of his studies.
If you search this site using his name you’ll find him mentioned innumerable times, since he published a huge amount on the evolution and diversity of waterfowl (e.g., Livezey 1991, 1995a, b, 1996a-c, 1997a, b) and rails (Livezey 2003), the behaviour of steamer-ducks (Livezey & Humphrey 1985a, b, 1986), the evolution of giant size in the dodo and solitaire (Livezey 1993), and on the shape of the neornithine tree as a whole (e.g., Livezey 1998, 2010) [adjacent plate showing flightless rails - from Livezey (2003) - features paintings by Julian Hume]. Within the last few years he and Richard Zusi published a major effort to use morphological data to resolve the phylogeny of all birds (Livezey & Zusi 2001, 2006, 2007). They documented and illustrated a gigantic number of characters and their work has been, and will be, cited in every subsequent study of avian phylogeny.
Friends of Brad know that he went through a hard time after the break-up of his marriage. But he got through it, and within just the last two years or so seemed to become increasingly active, with major works appearing on the phylogeny of shorebirds (Livezey 2009, 2010). His Carnegie Museum webpage shows that he was hard at work on other projects, including a really interesting one on hornbills (Livezey 2011, in prep). He was devoted to his dog and often chose not to travel for fear of leaving his friend behind. He was a good birder.
We’ve lost a major contributor to global ornithology. As usual at times like this, I think of his family and friends and send my sincere condolences.
Brad’s death has also been covered at Cryptomundo. Thanks to Gareth Dyke for help.
Refs – -
Livezey, B. C. 1988. Morphometrics of flightlessness in the Alcidae. The Auk 105, 681-698.
- . 1989. Morphometric patterns in Recent and fossil penguins (Aves, Sphenisciformes). Journal of Zoology 219, 269-307.
- . 1990. Evolutionary morphology of flightlessness in the Auckland Island teal. The Condor 92, 639-673.
- . 1991. A phylogenetic analysis and classification of recent dabbling ducks (Tribe Anatini) based on comparative morphology. The Auk 108, 471-507.
- . 1992. Flightlessness in the Galapagos cormorant (Compsohalieus [Nannopterum] harrisi): heterochrony, giantism and specialization. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 105, 155-224.
- . 1993. An ecomorphological review of the dodo (Raphus cucullatus) and solitaire (Pezophaps solitaria), flightless Columbiformes of the Mascarene Islands. Journal of Zoology 230, 247-292.
- . 1995a. Phylogeny and evolutionary ecology of modern seaducks (Anatidae: Mergini). The Condor 97, 233-255.
- . 1995b. A phylogenetic analysis of the whistling and white-backed ducks (Anatidae: Dendrocygninae) using morphological characters. Annals of Carnegie Museum 64, 65-97.
- . 1996a. A phylogenetic analysis of geese and swans (Anseriformes: Anserinae), including selected fossil species. Systematic Biology 45, 415-450.
- . 1996b. A phylogenetic analysis of modern pochards (Anatidae: Aythyini). The Auk 113, 74-93.
- . 1996c. A phylogenetic reassessment of the tadornine-anatine divergence (Aves: Anseriformes: Anatidae). Annals of Carnegie Museum 65, 27-88.
- . 1997a. A phylogenetic classification of waterfowl (Aves: Anseriformes), including selected fossil species. Annals of Carnegie Museum 66, 457-496.
- . 1997b. A phylogenetic analysis of basal Anseriformes, the fossil Presbyornis, and the interordinal relationships of waterfowl. Zoological Journal of Linnean Society 121, 361-428.
- . 1998. A phylogenetic analysis of the Gruiformes (Aves) based on morphological characters, with an emphasis on the rails (Rallidae). Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B 353, 2077-2151.
- . 2003. Evolution of flightlessness in Rails (Gruiformes: Rallidae): phylogenetic, ecomorphological, and ontogenetic perspectives. Ornithological Monographs 53, 1-654.
- . 2009. Phylogenetics of modern shorebirds (Charadriiformes) based on phenotypic evidence: I – Characterization. Bulletin of Carnegie Museum of Natural History 40, 1-96.
- . 2010. Phylogenetics of modern shorebirds (Charadriiformes) based on phenotypic evidence: analysis and discussion. Zoological Journal of Linnean Society 160, 567-618.
- . 2011. Phenotypic phylogenetics of hornbills (Coraciiformes: Bucerotidae): a paleotropical radiation of sedentary avian omnivores. Bulletin of Carnegie Museum of Natural History, in prep.
- . & Humphrey, P. S. 1985a. Territoriality and interspecific aggression in steamer-ducks. The Condor 87, 154-157.
- . & Humphrey, P. S. 1985b. Interspecific aggression in steamer-ducks. The Condor 87, 567-568.
- . & Humphrey, P. S. 1986. Flightlessness in steamer-ducks (Anatidae: Tachyeres): its morphological bases and probably evolution. Evolution 40, 540-558.
- . & Zusi, R. L. 2001. Higher-order phylogenetics of modern Aves based on comparative anatomy. Netherlands Journal of Zoology 51, 179-205.
- . & Zusi, R. L. 2006. Higher-order phylogeny of modern birds (Theropoda, Aves: Neornithes) based on comparative anatomy: I. – Methods and characters. Bulletin of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History 37, 1-556.
- . & Zusi, R. L. 2007. Higher-order phylogeny of modern birds (Theropoda, Aves: Neornithes) based on comparative anatomy. II. Analysis and discussion. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 149, 1-95.