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Phylogenetic analysis

These are riflebirds (Ptiloris victoriae), a kind of bird of paradise, and they occur in eastern Australia and New Guinea. Undertaking a phylogenetic analysis, they've been treated in various ways systematically. Several of them have been treated as separate species, sometimes they've been combined into a single biological species. Usually there's a couple of species recognized. But there are at least four or five different populations. If we do a phylogenetic analysis, we see that the population in the Atherton area of Australia, victorae, is more closely related to the one down in southeast Australia, paradiseus, and they in turn are related to these groups to the north. There's a species up in the Cape York Peninsula (magnificus). Its closest relatives aren't to the south but to the populations in New Guinea. The relationships within New Guinea are unresolved and need more phylogenetic data than I used.

Let's now look at whipbirds. These are really, really great birds. If you go to an Australian rainforest or if you go to a movie that has rainforest in it and you hear something that sounds like a whip [whistles] then you know you're not in the jungles of Africa but in Australia where whipbirds are calling. If we look at whipbirds they have similar distribution patterns on the east coast and then across to the southwest and to the center of Australia. A lot of these birds I showed you have very similar geographic distribution patterns, and here the relationships are between the northeast (lateralis) and southeast (olivaceus). That's similar to the riflebird you saw in the last slide. These two species in turn are related across to species in southwestern and southeastern Australia. Again, this is similar to the patterns you saw with the riflebirds and the ones you saw with the sittellas. So, lateralis and olivaceus are related and they, in turn, are related to nigrogularis and leucogaster. All four of those are related to two species in the eastern (occidentalis) and western (cristatus) desert areas. So we now have a series of hypotheses about how these areas of endemism might be related to each other.


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