is a black and cyan male superb bird-of-paradise (BoP) with an incredible feather display during mating rituals (Figs. 1, 2).
My question is: What are birds-of-paradise?
Where do they nest in the large reptile tree (LRT, 1283 taxa)?
Lophorina (and all other birds-of-paradise) nests within the family Paradisaeidae within the order Passeriformes which means, close to Passer the sparrow, which nests between chickens and parrots in the LRT. One catch: Wikipedia reports: the family Paradisaeidae nests most closely with crows and jays, which are not closely related to the seed-eating chickens, sparrows and parrots in the LRT.
Figure 2. Male Lophorina superba in various stages of its mating ritual from Scholes and Laman 2018.
Evidently the skeletons of birds-of-paradise
are not as highly prized as are the feathers. So, due to a lack of skeletal data for Lophorina
the LRT nested another bird-of-paradise, Semioptera wallacii (Fig. 3), based on skull data only, within the cuckoo clade between Menura, the lyrebird (Fig. 6), and Geococcyx, the roadrunner. Distinct from these two taxa, birds-of-paradise have shorter legs, which usually results from neotony (chicks of long-legged taxa generally have short legs).
FIgure 3. Skull of Semioptera wallacii has basic cuckoo clade features.
Semioptera shares with Lophorina
a set of breast shields and that ventrally concave beak. Not sure yet how any other BoPs are related to one another yet. If you have access to BoP skeletons, please send the citations or images.
As we learned
earlier, few of these bird relationships (Fig. 4) match genomic studies, which have been favored in recent years over skeletal studies. For instance, using DNA Prum et al. 2015 nested the lyrebird, Menura, at the base of a clade of bowerbirds, then crows + Lophorina (BoPs), and finally thrushes and sparrows. So results are not confirmed. Adding BoP and other taxa, as they become available, will help paint a better picture of evolution here.
Figure 4. Semioptera, the bird-of-paradise, nests in the cuckoo clade between the lyrebird, Menura, and the roadrunner, Geococcyx, not with sparrows, crows or jays (Passer, Corvus or Cyanocitta) in the LRT.
If you’ve not had your fill of dancing BoPs,
here’s a link to a YouTube video you might like:
The Darwinian thing is…
these males do not choose to act or look like they do. A long line of ancestors made that decision for them when they acted and looked that way (or thereabouts) and successfully mated with the females that, in reality, did all the choosing during these rituals.
Figure 6. The lyrebird, Menura, nests close to the one BoP in the LRT.
Scholes E and Laman TG 2018. Distinctive courtship phenotype of the Vogelkop Superb Bird-of-Paradise Lophorina niedda Mayr, 1930 confirms new species status. PeerJ. 6:e4621: e4621. doi:10.7717/peerj.4621