Four new avian mitochondrial genomes help get to basic evolutionary questions in the late Cretaceous

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Good phylogenetic trees are required to test hypotheses about evolutionary processes. We report four new avian mitochondrial genomes, which together with an improved method of phylogenetic analysis for vertebrate mt genomes give results for three questions in avian evolution. The new nit genomes are: magpie goose (Anseranas semipalmata), ail owl (morepork, Ninox novaeseelandiae); a basal passerine (rifleman, or New Zealand wren, Acanthisitta chloris); and a parrot (kakapo or owl-parrot, Strigops habroptilus). The magpie goose provides an important new calibration point for avian evolution because the well-studied Presbyornis fossils are on the lineage to ducks and geese, after the separation of the magpie goose. We find, as with other animal mitochondrial genomes, that RY-coding is helpful in adjusting for biases between pyrimidines and between purinies. When RY-coding is used at third positions of the codon, the root occurs between paleognath and neognath birds (as expected from morphological and nuclear data). In addition, passerines form a relatively old group in Neoaves, and many modern avian lineages diverged during the Cretaceous. Although many aspects of the avian tree are stable, additional taxon sampling is required.


  • GL Harrison
  • PA McLenachan
  • MJ Phillips
  • Kerryn Slack
  • A Cooper
  • D Penny
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Biological Sciences


  • kakapo (parrot Psittacrformes), Strigiformes), morepork (owl, Anseranas (Anseriformes), avian evolution, mitochondrial genomes, rifleman, (N Z Wren, Passeriformes), RY-coding
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)974-983
JournalMolecular biology and evolution
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2004
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015. The record was previously connected to the following departments: Department of Cell and Organism Biology (Closed 2011.) (011002100)