The quetzal (a trogon) enters the LRT

The Old World (particularly New Guinea)
includes several birds-of paradise, some of which we looked at earlier here. Today we’ll look at the best the New World has come up with: the resplendent quetzal (genus: Pharomachrus; Fig. 1), a member of the (formerly) enigmatic trogon family of extant birds.

Wikipedia reports, “The position of the trogons within the class Aves has been a long-standing mystery. They might constitute a member of the basal radiation of the order Coraciiformes (= kingfishers) or be closely related to mousebirds and owls. A variety of relations have been suggested, including the parrots, cuckoos, toucans, jacamars and puffbirds, rollers, owls and nightjars. The unique arrangement of the toes on the foot (retro digits 1+2) has led many to consider the trogons to have no close relatives, and to place them in their own order, possibly with the similarly atypical mousebirds as their closest relatives.”

Figure 1. Quetzalcoatlus (a type of trogon, genus: Pharomachrus mocinno) skeleton, skull and invivo presentation.

Figure 1. Quetzalcoatlus (a type of trogon, genus: Pharomachrus mocinno) skeleton, skull and invivo presentation. Note only two toes, 3 and 4 face anteriorly while perching. The other two wrap posteriorly.

No surprises here:
The large reptile tree (LRT, 1308 taxa) nests the quetzal Pharomachrus with the mousebird, Urocolius. We looked at the Urocolius earlier here.

Figure 1. Urocolius, the blue-napes mousebird, converges with parrots in having a reversible toe 4, the ability to feed upside-down and having a short, deep, hooked beak...plus that long parrot-like tail!

Figure 2. Urocolius, the blue-napes mousebird, converges with parrots in having a reversible toe 4, the ability to feed upside-down and having a short, deep, hooked beak…plus that long parrot-like tail!

Pharomachrus mocinno (La Llave 1832; 40cm snout-vent length +65cm tail) is the extant resplendent quetzal, a member of the trogon family of birds, here nesting with the mousebird, Urocolius. It has large eyes and an odd second toe that, along with pedal digit 1, is also retroverted for perching. This weak flyer has iridescent feathers.

References
de La Llave P 1832. Memorias sobre el quetzaltototl, género nuevo de aves. Registro Trimestre o collección de historia, literatura, ciencias y artes, por una sociedad de literatos 1: 43–49.

wiki/Pharomachrus
wiki/Resplendent quetzal

Side notes:
I’ll be doing a museum tour of the Western United States for the next 10 days or so. Following that will be 44 posts praising and/or criticizing various SVP abstracts, probably three to four times a day to keep them somewhat current.

Today I found 23 ‘pending’ comments. Though many were SPAM, others were approved and most were replied to. I apologize for overlooking these, some of which go back two years.

Best wishes and thank you for your attention.

 

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Mousebirds (genus: Urocolius)

Yesterday we looked at the hoopoe (genus: Upupa)
famous for its head crest of elevating feathers. Today we look at its sister, the mousebird (genus: Urocolius) which has a similar feathery crest, but differs in having a short parrot-like beak, a long parrot-like tail and a rare parrot-like reversible toe 4. These nest between toucans + hornbills and barbets + tropicbirds. These birds share a deep maxilla with a relatively elevated jugal (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. Urocolius, the blue-napes mousebird, converges with parrots in having a reversible toe 4, the ability to feed upside-down and having a short, deep, hooked beak...plus that long parrot-like tail!

Figure 1. Urocolius, the blue-napes mousebird, converges with parrots in having a reversible toe 4, the ability to feed upside-down and having a short, deep, hooked beak…plus that long parrot-like tail! The pygostyle is missing from this specimen.

Urocolius macrourus (Bonaparte 1854; 10cm snout-vent length) is the extant blue-naped mousebird, a member of the Coliiformers. Note the deep maxilla compared to the jugal. It nests with the hoopoe in the large reptile tree between hornbills and barbets. An omniovore restricted to sub-Saharan Africa, mousebirds build nests. They are gregarious, acrobatic and scurry through the leaves like rodents. Reversible toe 4 is able to rotate posteriorly, as in the related toucan, Pteroglossus.

References
Bonaparte CL 1854. En Ateneo Italiano. 1854. 2: 313.
wiki/Urocolius
wiki/Mousebird

The hoopoe (genus: Upupa) joins the LRT

And so does the mousebird, Colius.
They nest together between hornbills + toucans and barbets + tropicbirds.

Figure 1. Hoopoe (genus: Upupa) in vivo and as a skeleton.

Figure 1. Hoopoe (genus: Upupa) in vivo and as a skeleton.

First bird watchers thought the hoopoe was a kingfisher relative.
Then it was nested with barbets, which is where the large reptile tree (LRT, 1288 taxa) nests the hoopoe, famous for its head crest of mobile feathers.

Using DNA
Prum et al. 2015 nests all the barbets, hornbills, hoopoes, toucans and mousebirds together. And so does the LRT! The only difference is, Prum et al. split mousebirds off first, toucans last. The untenable outgroup for mousebirds and kin includes owls, vultures and the hoatzin in order of increasing distance.

Using skeletal traits
the outgroups for the extant taxa listed above are fossil specimens, Septencoracias and Cyrilavis. Owls nest with predator birds, nowhere near this clade.

Not well publicized,
the hoopoe skull appears to have four nostrils (Fig. 2). The anterior two are operative, while the posterior two are novel fenestrae opening dorsally.

Figure 1. Upupa skull in the three views. Pink arrows point to nares and fenestrae.

Figure 1. Upupa skull in the three views. Pink arrows point to nares and fenestrae.

Upupa epops (Linneaus 1758) is the extant hoopoe. It nests with mousebirds in the large reptile tree. According to Wikipedia: “The hoopoe has two basic requirements of its habitat: bare or lightly vegetated ground on which to forage and vertical surfaces with cavities in which to nest.”

Figure 3. Hoopoe skull superimposed on a specimen showing alignment of the nares, orbit and rostral tip. The rest is feathers.

Figure 3. Hoopoe skull superimposed on a specimen showing alignment of the nares, orbit and rostral tip. The rest is feathers.

We’ll look at mousebirds tomorrow.

References
Linnaeus C 1758. Systema naturæ per regna tria naturæ, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I. Editio decima, reformata.

What are birds-of-paradise? (part 2, Paradisaea minor)

 Figure 1. Paradisaea minor skeleton somewhat matched to in vivo pose.


Figure 1. Paradisaea minor skeleton somewhat matched to in vivo pose.

Yesterday a bird-of-paradise (BoP; Semioptera) was added to the large reptile tree (LRT, 1285 taxa) based on skull material only. It nested between the lyrebird and the roadrunner (genera: Menura and Geoccocyx, respectively) within the trumpeter/cuckoo clade. Crows (genus: Corvus) are the traditional (based on DNA) sister clade.

Fortunately,
I found a BoP skeleton online (Figs. 1, 2). It belongs to Paradisaea minor (Shaw 1809), the lesser bird-of-paradise. In BoPs the legs are shorter than in sister taxa, reflecting an instance of phylogenetic miniaturization at the genesis of the clade.

Even with the semi-crappy data currently available
(note the tibia and femur flipped upside down, lack of ribs and the lo-rez image overall) the LRT was able to successfully nest the BoPs together, apart from crows and jays.

Figure 2. Skull or Paradisaea minor, the lesser bird-of-paradise.

Figure 2. Skull or Paradisaea minor, the lesser bird-of-paradise.

Let’s not forget
that trumpeters and lyrebirds are both jungle residents, as are BoPs.

References
Shaw 1809. General Zoology 7 pt2:486

wiki/Lesser_bird-of-paradise

 

What are birds-of-paradise?

Lophorina superba
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)?

Wikipedia reports:
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 niedda in various stages of its mating ritual.

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.

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.

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.

Figure 6. The lyrebird, Menura, nests close to the one BoP in the LRT.

References
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

birdsofparadiseproject.org

“Kinematics of wings from Caudipteryx to modern birds”: Talori et al. 2018

A new paper without peer-review by Talori, Zhao and O’Connor 2018
seeks to “better quantify the parameters that drove the evolution of flight from non-volant winged dinosaurs to modern birds.”

Unfortunately
they employ Caudipteryx, an oviraptorosaur. They correctly state,
Currently it is nearly universally accepted that Aves belongs to the derived clade of theropod dinosaurs, the Maniraptora.” They incorrectly state, “The oviraptorosaur Caudipteryx is a member of this clade and the basal-most  maniraptoran with pennaceous feathers.” In the large reptile tree (LRT, 1269 taxa) oviraptorosaurs nest with therizinosaurus, and more distantly ornithomimosaurs. This clade is separated from bird ancestor troodontids by the Ornitholestes/Microraptor clade.

Figure 1. More taxa, updated tree, new clade names.

Figure 1. Caudipterys is in the peach-colored clade, far from the lineage of birds.

The Talori team
mathematically modeled Caudipteryx with three hypothetical wing sizes, but failed to provide evidence that the Caudipteryx wing was capable of flapping. In all flapping tetrapods the elongation of the coracoid  (or in bats of the clavicle) signals the onset of flapping… and Caudipteryx does not have an elongate coracoid. Rather, it remains a disc.

So, no matter the math, or the accuracy of the mechanical model,
the phylogeny is not valid and the assumption of flapping is inappropriate. It would have been better if they had chosen a troodontid and several Solnhofen birds to test.

Tossing those issues aside,
the Talori team did an excellent job of setting their mechanical model (which could be a troodontid) in a wind tunnel, extracting data from three different wing shapes and presenting their findings. Feathers would have been more flexible than their mold manufactured wings, but the effort is laudable.

References
Zhao J-S, Talori YS, O’Connor J-M 2018. Kinematics of wings from Caudipteryx to modern birds. [not peer-reviewed] bioRXiv
https://www.biorxiv.org/content/early/2018/08/16/393686

http://reptileevolution.com/reptile-tree.htm

The budgie has a pseudo-jugal!

Figure 1. The number 3 pet in the world (after cats and dogs) is the Budgerigar.

Figure 1. The number 3 pet in the world (after cats and dogs) is the Budgerigar (genus: Melopsittacus).

Everyone loves the budgerigar!
(genus: Melopsittacus undulates), but few people know it has an unusually large/long lacrimal (tan) that curls under the orbit to contact the postfrontal (Fig. 2), as in it’s larger relative, Ara, the macaw. It looks like a typically jugal on other reptiles. The actual very birdy jugal appears beneath it (cyan).

Figure 2. The skull of Melopsittacus in three views. Note the tan lacrimal creating a false-jugal on top of the real jugal (in cyan).

Figure 2. The skull of Melopsittacus in three views. Note the tan lacrimal creating a false-jugal on top of the real jugal (in cyan). There’s a hinge between the nasal and frontal that lifts the premaxilla.

And where is the maxilla?
Hidden inside the premaxilla and overlapping nasal. The last of it is contacting the anterior jugal.

Figure 3. Melopsittacus skeleton. This is the budgie cut to the bone.

Figure 3. Melopsittacus skeleton. This is the budgie cut to the bone.

Melopsittacus undulatus (Linneaus 1758; extant ) is the extant budgerigar, a tiny parrot. Here the nasal wraps around the ventral naris. The lacrimal forms a send jugal below the orbit and contacts the postorbital and squamosal.

References
Linnaeus C 1758. Systema naturæ per regna tria naturæ, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I. Editio decima, reformata.