The evolutionary history of cockatoos (Aves: Psittaciformes: Cacatuidae)

Nicole E. White*, Matthew J. Phillips, M. Thomas P. Gilbert, Alonzo Alfaro-Núñez, Eske Willerslev, Peter R. Mawson, Peter B.S. Spencer, Michael Bunce

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    66 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Cockatoos are the distinctive family Cacatuidae, a major lineage of the order of parrots (Psittaciformes) and distributed throughout the Australasian region of the world. However, the evolutionary history of cockatoos is not well understood. We investigated the phylogeny of cockatoos based on three mitochondrial and three nuclear DNA genes obtained from 16 of 21 species of Cacatuidae. In addition, five novel mitochondrial genomes were used to estimate time of divergence and our estimates indicate Cacatuidae diverged from Psittacidae approximately 40.7. million years ago (95% CI 51.6-30.3. Ma) during the Eocene. Our data shows Cacatuidae began to diversify approximately 27.9. Ma (95% CI 38.1-18.3. Ma) during the Oligocene. The early to middle Miocene (20-10. Ma) was a significant period in the evolution of modern Australian environments and vegetation, in which a transformation from mainly mesic to xeric habitats (e.g., fire-adapted sclerophyll vegetation and grasslands) occurred. We hypothesize that this environmental transformation was a driving force behind the diversification of cockatoos. A detailed multi-locus molecular phylogeny enabled us to resolve the phylogenetic placements of the Palm Cockatoo (Probosciger aterrimus), Galah (Eolophus roseicapillus), Gang-gang Cockatoo (Callocephalon fimbriatum) and Cockatiel (Nymphicus hollandicus), which have historically been difficult to place within Cacatuidae. When the molecular evidence is analysed in concert with morphology, it is clear that many of the cockatoo species' diagnostic phenotypic traits such as plumage colour, body size, wing shape and bill morphology have evolved in parallel or convergently across lineages.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)615-622
    Number of pages8
    JournalMolecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
    Volume59
    Issue number3
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2011

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