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Phylogenies of the sunbirds, spiderhunters and flowerpeckers (Nectariniidae) based on analyses of vocalisations

Phylogenies of the sunbirds, spiderhunters and flowerpeckers (Nectariniidae) based on analyses of vocalisations

Iddi, Kassim Nicholas (2008) Phylogenies of the sunbirds, spiderhunters and flowerpeckers (Nectariniidae) based on analyses of vocalisations. PhD thesis, University of Greenwich.

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The phylogeny and affinities of the flowerpeckers (sometimes separated from the Nectariniidae into the family Dicaeidae), sunbirds and spiderhunters (Family Nectariniidae) are controversial and have been much debated by ornithologists from the perspectives of both the biological species and phylogenetic species concepts. This study constructed phylogenies for the Nectariniidae from up to 20 parameters derived from quantitative analyses of their vocalisations and used these to test hypotheses on whether or not the origin of sunbirds is African or Asian. This is the first comparative study of bird songs for an entire large Family (294 taxa analysed) to derive a phylogeny. In addition to standard sonographic measurements, this study is the first to use entropy values derived directly from sonograms as an objective way of separating calls from songs and simple songs from complex songs.

Whilst some species have simple songs, those of others are complex with extensive repertoires. The complex vocalisations are more informative and provide good phylogenetic signals.

The affinities of the genera of flowerpeckers were firmly established on vocal grounds and concurred with their traditional taxonomy. The vocal phylogeny failed to separate sunbirds from spiderhunters but showed that the Asian group of sunbirds emerged as the basal clade and therefore the most primitive clade of the sunbird lineage. This is in agreement with the phylogenetic outcome of recent DMA studies. It is therefore concluded that sunbirds may have originated on the Indian subcontinent, reached Indian Ocean islands including Madagascar and then penetrated into Africa, with the possibility that some oceanic island species were later derived from secondary invasions from Africa. The results further suggest that the clade of the Gulf of Guinea group of species may have arisen from a common ancestor from the African continent. The Indian Ocean island species also separated as a distinct group.

Mean bill lengths and body sizes of different taxa were analysed in relation to the vocalisations. The results indicated significant relationships between bill length and body size and song complexity, with the latter higher in the more advanced genera. Song frequency was lower in forest species than those inhabiting open areas but no clear phylogenetic signals emerged from these data. Plumage dimorphism, nest structures and placements, habitat types and the breeding behaviour of the Nectariniidae were also examined.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information:
Uncontrolled Keywords: Nectariniidae, origins, Genus Arachnothera, evolution, birds, phylogeny
Subjects: Q Science > QL Zoology
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute
Last Modified: 16 Jun 2021 17:24

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