Molecular Systematics of Nightjars and Nighthawks (Caprimulgidae)

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2006-12-09

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Abstract

Caprimulgidae, a cosmopolitan family of nocturnal or crepuscular insectivorous birds, comprises the subfamilies Caprimulginae (nightjars) and Chordeilinae (nighthawks). A phylogeny was reconstructed using cytochrome b, c-myc and growth hormone DNA sequences. Likelihood, parsimony and Bayesian analyses identify four major phylogenetic groups, three New World and one Old World. One New World clade consists of whip-poor-wills and relatives; a second consists of two traditional nighthawk genera, Chordeiles and Podager; a third consists of the remaining Neotropical taxa. C. enarratus, a Madagascan endemic, branches before these clades, and has no close relatives among the species sampled. The subfamilies are not monophyletic, suggesting the morphological specializations characterizing "nighthawks" evolved multiple times. Eurostopodus forms the earliest branches of the tree and may be paraphyletic. Caprimulgus is polyphyletic with respect to many other genera in the family, which are often defined by distinct plumage traits that may reflect sexual selection.

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