Descriptions and phylogenetic relationships of a new genus and two new species of Oligo‐Miocene cormorants (Aves: Phalacrocoracidae) from Australia

Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society (Impact Factor: 2.66). 08/2011; 163(1):277 - 314. DOI: 10.1111/j.1096-3642.2011.00693.x

ABSTRACT Tertiary cormorant fossils (Aves: Phalacrocoracidae) from Late Oligocene deposits in Australia are described. They derive from the Late Oligocene – Early Miocene (26–24 Mya) Etadunna and Namba Formations in the Lake Eyre and Lake Frome Basins, South Australia, respectively. A new genus, Nambashag gen. nov., with two new species (Nambashag billerooensis sp. nov., 30 specimens; Nambashag microglaucus sp. nov., 14 specimens), has been established. Phylogenetic analyses based on 113 morphological and two integumentary characters indicated that Nambashag is the sister taxon to the Early Miocene Nectornis miocaenus of Europe and all extant phalacrocoracids. As Nambashag, Nectornis, and extant phalacrocoracids constitute a strongly supported clade sister to Anhinga species, the fossil taxa have been referred to Phalacrocoracidae. Sulids and Fregata were successive sister taxa to the Phalacrocoracoidea, i.e. phalacrocoracids + Anhinga. As phalacrocoracids lived in both Europe and Australia during the Late Oligocene and no older phalacrocoracid taxa are known, the biogeographical origin of cormorants remains unanswered. The phylogenetic relationships of extant taxa were not wholly resolved, but contrary to previous morphological analyses, considerable concordance was found with relationships recovered by recent molecular analyses. Microcarbo is sister to all other extant phalacrocoracids, and all Leucocarbo species form a well-supported clade.© 2011 The Linnean Society of London, Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2011, 163, 277–314.

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    ABSTRACT: A phylogenetic analysis was undertaken to evaluate the monophyly of the Pelecaniformes and to determine interfamilial relationships within the order. A total of 52 characters was subjected to a numerical cladistic analysis. Pelecaniform monophyly was highly corroborated, with 12 postulated synapomorphies supporting that hypothesis. Within the pelecaniforms, the phaethontids are the sister-group of the remaining families, which are divided into two lineages, the fregatids on the one hand and the pelecanids, sulids, and phalacrocoracids (including anhingids) on the other. Within the latter clade, sulids and phalacrocoracids are each other's closest relatives. This pattern of interfamilial relationships was strongly corroborated by the data, and alternative hypotheses, especially those postu- lating a close relationship between phaethontids and fregatids, are much less parsimonious. The study also presents corroborating evidence that pelecaniforms and procellariiforms are sister-taxa, although this hypothesis requires further analysis. Evidence supporting a relationship between pelecaniforms and ciconiiforms is evaluated and considered insuffi- cient to warrant acceptance of that hypothesis at this time. The hypothesis that the Whale-headed Stork (Balaeniceps rex) has a relationship to one or more pelecaniform taxa was investigated and rejected. The characters said to indicate a close relationship are interpreted here to be convergences that arose as mechanical responses to similarities in feeding behavior. Received 10 January 1985, accepted 16 May 1985.


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