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Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy

The Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy is a radical new approach to taxonomy based on DNA studies which gives an arrangement differing greatly from the more traditional approach used in list of birds. The major changes at order level are as follows;

  • Anseriformes ducks and allies unchanged
  • New Craciformes chachalacas etc. Previously Galliformes
  • Columbiformes doves unchanged
  • New Musophagiformes turacos. Previously Cuculiformes.
  • New Strigiformes owls enlarged to include Caprimulgiformes nightjars
  • New Upupiformes Hoopoe, previously Coraciiformes
  • New Bucerotiformes hornbills, previously Coraciiformes
  • New Galbuliformes jacamars, previously Piciformes

This revolutionary reordering has been widely accepted by North American ornithologists, including the American Ornithologists' Union, but in other parts of the world its effect has been more evolutionary: it has been a respected major influence on existing classification schemes, as opposed to a complete replacement for them.

A more recent paper looked at the ancestry of bird groups. The traditional view of avian evolution places ratites and tinamous at the base of the tree of modern birds (Neornithes), followed by old marine groups such as the penguins, grebes and divers (loons).

The new research suggested that the ducks and gallinaceous birds are each other's closest relatives and together form the basal lineage of neognathous birds. The ratites and tinamous will now be followed by the ducks and their allies, and then the pheasants and their allies.


This latter research has been accepted by the British Ornithologists' Union, and the British list will now start with Anseriformes and Galliformes

See also:


Last updated: 11-03-2004 03:56:53