A phylogenetic supertree of the fowls (Galloanserae, Aves)

Soo Hyung Eo, Olaf R.P. Bininda-Emonds, John P. Carroll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


The fowls (Anseriformes and Galliformes) comprise one of the major lineages of birds and occupy almost all biogeographical regions of the world. The group contains the most economically important of all bird species, each with a long history of domestication, and is an ideal model for studying ecological and evolutionary patterns. Yet, despite the relatively large amount of systematic attention fowls have attracted because of their socio-economic and biological importance, the species-level relationships within this clade remain controversial. Here we used the supertree method matrix representation with parsimony to generate a robust estimate of species-level relationships of fowls. The supertree represents one of the most comprehensive estimates for the group to date, including 376 species (83.2% of all species; all 162 Anseriformes and 214 Galliformes) and all but one genera. The supertree was well-resolved (81.1%) and supported the monophyly of both Anseriformes and Galliformes. The supertree supported the partitioning of Anseriformes into the three traditional families Anhimidae, Anseranatidae, and Anatidae, although it provided relatively poor resolution within Anatidae. For Galliformes, the majority-rule supertree was largely consistent with the hypothesis of sequential sister-group relationships between Megapodiidae, Cracidae, and the remaining Galliformes. However, our species-level supertree indicated that more than 30% of the polytypic genera examined were not monophyletic, suggesting that results from genus-level comparative studies using the average of the constituent species' traits should be interpreted with caution until analogous species-level comparative studies are available. Poorly resolved areas of the supertree reflect gaps or outstanding conflict within the existing phylogenetic database, highlighting areas in need of more study in addition to those species not present on the tree at all due to insufficient information. Even so, our supertree will provide a valuable foundation for understanding the diverse biology of fowls in a robust phylogenetic framework.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)465-481
Number of pages17
JournalZoologica Scripta
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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