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Open Access Research article

Multilocus perspectives on the monophyly and phylogeny of the order Charadriiformes (Aves)

Matthew G Fain and Peter Houde*

Author affiliations

Department of Biology, New Mexico State University, Box 30001 MSC 3AF, Las Cruces New Mexico 88003 USA

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Citation and License

BMC Evolutionary Biology 2007, 7:35  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-7-35

Published: 8 March 2007

Abstract

Background

The phylogeny of shorebirds (Aves: Charadriiformes) and their putative sister groups was reconstructed using approximately 5 kilobases of data from three nuclear loci and two mitochondrial genes, and compared to that based on two other nuclear loci.

Results

Charadriiformes represent a monophyletic group that consists of three monophyletic suborders Lari (i.e., Laridae [including Sternidae and Rynchopidae], Stercorariidae, Alcidae, Glareolidae, Dromadidae, and Turnicidae), Scolopaci (i.e., Scolopacidae [including Phalaropidae], Jacanidae, Rostratulidae, Thinocoridae, Pedionomidae), and Charadrii (i.e., Burhinidae, Chionididae, Charadriidae, Haematopodidae, Recurvirostridae, and presumably Ibidorhynchidae). The position of purported "gruiform" buttonquails within Charadriiformes is confirmed. Skimmers are most likely sister to terns alone, and plovers may be paraphyletic with respect to oystercatchers and stilts. The Egyptian Plover is not a member of the Glareolidae, but is instead relatively basal among Charadrii. None of the putative sisters of Charadriiformes were recovered as such.

Conclusion

Hypotheses of non-monophyly and sister relationships of shorebirds are tested by multilocus analysis. The monophyly of and interfamilial relationships among shorebirds are confirmed and refined. Lineage-specific differences in evolutionary rates are more consistent across loci in shorebirds than other birds and may contribute to the congruence of locus-specific phylogenetic estimates in shorebirds.