Acridotheres

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Acridotheres
Indian-Mynah444.jpg
Common myna, Acridotheres tristis
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Sturnidae
Genus: Acridotheres
Vieillot, 1816
Species

Some 12-16, see text

Acridotheres is a genus of starlings, the "typical" mynas, which are tropical members of the family Sturnidae. This genus has representatives in tropical southern Asia from Iran east to southern China and Indonesia. Two species have been introduced widely elsewhere. The common myna has been introduced to South Africa, Israel, Hawaii, North America, Australia and New Zealand, and the crested myna to the Vancouver region of British Columbia.

The Acridotheres mynas are generally dark or dull birds with and fluted calls like most starlings; the sexes are similar. They walk rather than hop, and have modifications to the skull and its muscles for open bill probing. They resemble the hill mynas (Gracula) with which they often co-occur, in having large white or buff wing patches which are obvious in flight and in some also naked areas on the head, but differ in that only the head plumage is glossy, and the underparts tend to be paler. The naked head patches are different in arrangement. Acridotheres mynas are also much more terrestrial than Gracula.

They have bowing courtship displays, whereas Gracula has no visual display. They lay unmarked pale blue eggs.

Several species have frontal crests which become covered with pollen when the birds take nectar from flowers, and may play a role in pollination.

Like most starlings, the Acridotheres mynas are fairly omnivorous, eating fruit, nectar and insects.

Systematics[edit]

Despite being both called "mynas", the Acridotheres mynas are closer related to a group of mainly terrestrial starlings from Eurasia, such as the common starling, and also African ones like the Lamprotornis glossy-starlings. Among these, they are among the larger and duller species; they seem to be one of the major groups to evolve most recently. Apparently, they all arose from ancestors which arrived from Central Asia and adapted to more humid conditions in the Tropics. They presumably were isolated in about their current range when the evolutionary radiation to which they belonged - including the wattled starling and the Sturnia species - was fragmented by desertification of their of origin at the start of the Early Pliocene, as Earth turned towards the last ice age 5 million years ago.

The taxonomy of this group is complex, and other authorities differ considerably in which species they place in this genus, and in the species boundaries within Acridotheres.

The following is a list of "core" Acridotheres species in taxonomic order[citation needed]:

The taxonomy of this group is complex, and other authorities differ considerably in which species they place in this genus, and in the species boundaries within Acridotheres. Several species from the paraphyletic Sturnus assemblage are often placed in Acridotheres. Indeed, as more recent studies suggest (Jønsson & Fjeldså 2006, Zuccon et al. 2006), this is most likely correct.

Two others (red-billed starling, Sturnus sericeus & white-cheeked starling, Sturnus cineraceus) are probably basal in the group and might even be closer to Sturnia. The relationships of the white-faced starling are more unclear, but it is generally not held to be close to the present genus.

References[edit]

  • Feare, Chris & Craig, Adrian (1999): Starlings and Mynas. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-7136-3961-X
  • Grimmett, Richard; Inskipp, Carol, Inskipp, Tim & Byers, Clive (1999): Birds of India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives. Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J.. ISBN 0-691-04910-6
  • Jønsson, Knud A. & Fjeldså, Jon (2006): A phylogenetic supertree of oscine passerine birds (Aves: Passeri). Zool. Scripta 35(2): 149–186. doi:10.1111/j.1463-6409.2006.00221.x (HTML abstract)
  • Zuccon, Dario; Cibois, Anne; Pasquet, Eric & Ericson, Per G.P. (2006): Nuclear and mitochondrial sequence data reveal the major lineages of starlings, mynas and related taxa. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 41(2): 333-344. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2006.05.007 (HTML abstract)