Complexity of avian evolution revealed by family-level genomes


Despite tremendous efforts in the past decades, relationships among main avian lineages remain heavily debated without a clear resolution. Discrepancies have been attributed to diversity of species sampled, phylogenetic method, and the choice of genomic regions 1–3. Here, we address these issues by analyzing genomes of 363 bird species 4 (218 taxonomic families, 92% of total). Using intergenic regions and coalescent methods, we present a well-supported tree but also a remarkable degree of discordance. The tree confirms that Neoaves experienced rapid radiation at or near the Cretaceous–Paleogene (K–Pg) boundary. Sufficient loci rather than extensive taxon sampling were more effective in resolving difficult nodes. Remaining recalcitrant nodes involve species that challenge modeling due to extreme GC content, variable substitution rates, incomplete lineage sorting, or complex evolutionary events such as ancient hybridization. Assessment of the impacts of different genomic partitions showed high heterogeneity across the genome. We discovered sharp increases in effective population size, substitution rates, and relative brain size following the K–Pg extinction event, supporting the hypothesis that emerging ecological opportunities catalyzed the diversification of modern birds. The resulting phylogenetic estimate offers novel insights into the rapid radiation of modern birds and provides a taxon-rich backbone tree for future comparative studies.


DOI: 10.1038/s41586-024-07323-1

Research Groups: Computational Molecular Evolution

Publication type: Journal

Journal: Nature

Citation: Nature

Date Published: 1st Apr 2024

Registered Mode: by DOI

Authors: Josefin Stiller, Shaohong Feng, Al-Aabid Chowdhury, Iker Rivas-González, David A. Duchêne, Qi Fang, Yuan Deng, Alexey Kozlov, Alexandros Stamatakis, Santiago Claramunt, Jacqueline M. T. Nguyen, Simon Y. W. Ho, Brant C. Faircloth, Julia Haag, Peter Houde, Joel Cracraft, Metin Balaban, Uyen Mai, Guangji Chen, Rongsheng Gao, Chengran Zhou, Yulong Xie, Zijian Huang, Zhen Cao, Zhi Yan, Huw A. Ogilvie, Luay Nakhleh, Bent Lindow, Benoit Morel, Jon Fjeldså, Peter A. Hosner, Rute R. da Fonseca, Bent Petersen, Joseph A. Tobias, Tamás Székely, Jonathan David Kennedy, Andrew Hart Reeve, Andras Liker, Martin Stervander, Agostinho Antunes, Dieter Thomas Tietze, Mads Bertelsen, Fumin Lei, Carsten Rahbek, Gary R. Graves, Mikkel H. Schierup, Tandy Warnow, Edward L. Braun, M. Thomas P. Gilbert, Erich D. Jarvis, Siavash Mirarab, Guojie Zhang

Stiller, J., Feng, S., Chowdhury, A.-A., Rivas-González, I., Duchêne, D. A., Fang, Q., Deng, Y., Kozlov, A., Stamatakis, A., Claramunt, S., Nguyen, J. M. T., Ho, S. Y. W., Faircloth, B. C., Haag, J., Houde, P., Cracraft, J., Balaban, M., Mai, U., Chen, G., … Zhang, G. (2024). Complexity of avian evolution revealed by family-level genomes. In Nature. Springer Science and Business Media LLC.

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Created: 23rd Apr 2024 at 11:12

Last updated: 23rd Apr 2024 at 11:13

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