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New Zealand passerines help clarify the diversification of major songbird lineages during the Oligocene

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-18, 14:44 authored by Gibb, GC, England, R, Hartig, G, McLenachan, PA, Taylor Smith, BL, Bennet McComishBennet McComish, Cooper, A, Penny, D
Passerines are the largest avian order, and the 6,000 species comprise more than half of all extant bird species. This successful radiation probably had its origin in the Australasian region, but dating this origin has been difficult due to a scarce fossil record and poor biogeographic assumptions. Many of New Zealand’s endemic passerines fall within the deeper branches of the passerine radiation, and a well resolved phylogeny for the modern New Zealand element in the deeper branches of the oscine lineage will help us understand both oscine and passerine biogeography. To this end we present complete mitochondrial genomes representing all families of New Zealand passerines in a phylogenetic framework of over 100 passerine species. Dating analyses of this robust phylogeny suggest Passeriformes originated in the early Paleocene, with the major lineages of oscines “escaping” from Australasia about 30 Ma, and radiating throughout the world during the Oligocene. This independently derived conclusion is consistent with the passerine fossil record.


Publication title

Genome Biology and Evolution










School of Natural Sciences


Oxford University Press

Place of publication

United Kingdom

Rights statement

Copyright 2015 The Authors Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Expanding knowledge in the biological sciences

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