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Southern hemisphere tectonics in the Cenozoic shaped the pantropical distribution of parrots and passerines (1 Viewer)

Fred Ruhe

Well-known member
Alexansre Pedro Selvatti, Ana Galvão, Gerald Mayr, Cristina Yumi Miyaki, & Claudia Augusta de Moraes Russo, 2022

Southern hemisphere tectonics in the Cenozoic shaped the pantropical distribution of parrots and passerines

ournal of Biogeography; doi: 10.1111/jbi.14466

Abstract: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jbi.14466


Explanations of pantropical distributions are challenging for taxa that diverged during the Cenozoic, after Gondwana broke apart. The ‘boreotropics hypothesis’ suggests that pantropical birds originated in the Laurasian forests. Extant parrots (Psittaciformes) are one the most species-rich pantropical avian clades, but their known evolutionary history does not fit a boreotropical origin. Most living parrots and the earliest diverging lineages of the Psittaciformes inhabit the remnants of Gondwana, whereas the oldest stem and crown fossils are from the remnants of Laurasia. Our study proposes a biogeographic hypothesis that focuses on the Cenozoic connections between Laurasia and Gondwana to explain extant and fossil geographical distributions.






We generated a time tree using previously derived data from 32 molecular markers for 312 parrot species and reconstructed their biogeographic history using maximum likelihood. Two scenarios were compared: one with dispersal constrained to adjacent areas, including the connections between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, and one without this constraint.


Our results indicate that the pantropical distribution of parrots was shaped by two major geological events. First, the final breakup of parts of Gondwana may have caused the first splits within crown parrots, establishing two parallel radiations: Psittacidae in the Neotropics and Psittaculidae in Australasia. Second, igneous palaeoprovinces could have connected major biogeographic realms. It seems that Atlantogea and Eurogondwana were important, as they connected South America, Africa and Europe, thus reconciling the Gondwanan crown splits and the early Laurasian fossils.

Main Conclusions​

Our time tree allowed more concise biogeographic correlations between parrots and their sister group, the passerines and Earth's tectonic history. The crown lineages of Psittacopasseres appear to have originated in the Southern Hemisphere remnants of Gondwana, but stem lineages appear to have been able to disperse into the Northern Hemisphere through palaeobiogeographic provinces in the Cenozoic.


F I G U R E 1 Dated maximum likelihood (ML) tree and ancestral ranges of the Psittacopasseres with emphasis on the Psittaciformes. Multispecies monophyletic genera were collapsed in a single branch. Circles indicate high (>70%; black) or low (<70%; white) node support for ML (right) and multispecies coalescent (left) topologies, and asterisks indicate nodes not recovered in each respective analysis. Top left: Map of present-day continents and biogeographic regions used here: Australo-Pacific region (A), Eurasia (B), Africa (C), Madagascar (D), South America (E), North America and Caribbean (F). Numbered light blue silhouettes are pre-Quaternary (Late Oligocene–Miocene) fossils of crown Psittaciformes in the Northern Hemisphere with approximate location and main bone in original description: Conuropsis (1; humerus, North America) and tarsometatarsi attributed to Mogontiacopsitta and Bavaripsitta (2; Germany), Archaeopsittacus (3; France), Xenopsitta (4; Czech Republic) and Psittacoidea gen. Indet. (5; Siberia). Shaded time intervals with Roman numbers indicate major geologic events that may have influenced Psittacopasseres evolution.

F I G U R E 2 Our proposed hypothesis for the diversification of the Psittacopasseres major lineages (families and subfamilies). Approximate
palaeobiogeographic reconstruction of major landmasses during the Paleogene (a) and Neogene (b). Igneous provinces of the Southern Hemisphere are coloured in dark red. Yellow lines suggest range expansions/dispersals of the crown (continuous) and stem (dashed) Psittacopasseres. Colour codes for the biogeographic areas and ancestral ranges at each node are the same as in Figure 1.



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