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Keywords:

  • avian anatomy;
  • avian phylogenetics;
  • Gondwana;
  • Palaeognathae

There has been little agreement on the phylogeny of palaeognathous birds, with major differences amongst and between results from morphological and molecular data. Two recently published phylogenies using nuclear and mitochondrial DNA have substantial agreement in overall topology, with the ostrich as sister group of all other extant palaeognaths and a kiwi-emu-cassowary clade. Here I report a morphological phylogeny based mainly on new characters from the tongue apparatus and cranial osteology, with a theoretical ancestor as outgroup. A new interpretation of the evolution of the avian palate is included. This phylogeny is very similar to these recent molecular results; this is the first report of such congruence, and offers a credible basis for understanding the evolution of this clade. This phylogeny is fully consistent with a Gondwana vicariance model of evolution. Dates attributed from known geological events place the first extant radiation (ostrich) in the mid-Cretaceous, and offer a means of calibration of future molecular clock investigations.

© 2011 The Linnean Society of London, Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2011, 163, 959–983.