Modern birds

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Modern birds
Temporal range:
Early Cretaceous[1]Holocene, 100–0Ma
Possible Early Cretaceous record[1]
Rhynchotus rufescens -Parque das Aves-8a.jpg
Red-winged tinamou (Rhynchotus rufescens)
Passer domesticus male (15).jpg
House sparrow (Passer domesticus)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Clade: Carinatae
Subclass: Neornithes
Gadow, 1893[2]

Modern birds (subclass Neornithes) are the most recent common ancestor of all living birds (class Aves) and all its descendants.

Modern birds are characterised by a beak with no teeth and a high metabolic rate and rate of growth. Most can fly, with some exceptions including ratites, penguins, and a number of diverse endemic island species. Modern birds also have unique digestive and respiratory systems that are highly adapted for flight. Some birds, especially corvids and parrots, are among the most intelligent animal species; a number of bird species have been observed manufacturing and using tools, and many social species exhibit cultural transmission of knowledge across generations.

Many species of modern bird undertake long-distance annual migrations, and many more perform shorter irregular movements. Birds are social; they communicate using visual signals and through calls and songs, and participate in social behaviours including cooperative breeding and hunting, flocking, and mobbing of predators. The vast majority of bird species are socially monogamous, usually for one breeding season at a time, sometimes for years, but rarely for life. Engagement in extra-pair copulations is common in some species; other species have breeding systems that are polygynous ("many females") or, rarely, polyandrous ("many males"). Eggs are usually laid in a nest and incubated by the parents. Most birds have an extended period of parental care after hatching.


Modern birds are divided into two superorders; the Palaeognathae (tinamous and flightless ratites such as ostriches), and the wildly diverse Neognathae, containing all other birds. Depending on the taxonomic viewpoint, the number of species cited varies anywhere from 8,800 to 10,200 known living bird species in the world. It is generally agreed that the Neornithes evolved in the Cretaceous Period and that the split between the Palaeognathae and Neognathae, and then the split between Galloanserae (fowl) and the other Neognathae, occurred before the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event (the earliest fossil remains confidently referred to the Neornithes come from the possible galliform Austinornis, dated to about 85 mya,[3] though the 130 million year old Hauterivian age Gallornis straeleni may also be a neornithine[4]), but there are different opinions about whether the radiation of the remaining neognathes occurred before or after the extinction of the other dinosaurs.[5] This disagreement is in part caused by a divergence in the evidence, with molecular dating suggesting a Cretaceous radiation and fossil evidence supporting a Tertiary radiation. Attempts made to reconcile the molecular and fossil evidence have proved controversial.[5][6]

The classification of modern birds is a contentious issue. Sibley & Ahlquist's Phylogeny and Classification of Birds (1990) is a landmark work on the classification of birds, although frequently debated and constantly revised. A preponderance of evidence seems to suggest that the modern bird orders constitute accurate taxa. However, scientists are not in agreement as to the relationships between the orders; evidence from modern bird anatomy, fossils and DNA have all been brought to bear on the problem but no strong consensus has emerged. More recently, new fossil and molecular evidence is providing an increasingly clear picture of the evolution of modern bird orders. See also: Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy and dinosaur classification.

In traditional classification, the Neornithes also included a third superorder, the Odontognathae, containing advanced toothed birds from the Cretaceous, like Hesperornis and Ichthyornis.[7] This superorder likely paraphyletic, however, and falls outside the crown group of birds. It is not entirely clear whether the Palaeognathae too are paraphyletic, or represent a primitive grade of birds.[8]















Basal bird phylogeny showing Neornithes and extinct ancient groups (simplified after Chiappe, 2007[9])

Subclass Neornithes


  1. ^ a b Brown, J.W. & Van Tuinen, M. (2011). ""Evolving Perceptions on the Antiquity of the Modern Avian Tree, in Living Dinosaurs: The Evolutionary History of Modern Birds"". John Wiley & Sons LtD. doi:10.1002/9781119990475.ch12. 
  2. ^ Brands, Sheila (17 October 2009). "Systema Naturae 2000 / Classification – Subclass Neornithes –". Project: The Taxonomicon. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Universal Taxonomic Services. Retrieved 11 Jun 2012. 
  3. ^ Clarke, J.A. (2004) Morphology, phylogenetic taxonomy, and systematics of Ichthyornis and Apatornis (Avialae: Ornithurae). Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 286:1-179
  4. ^ Hope, Sylvia (2002). "The Mesozoic Radiation of Neornithes". In Chiappe, Luis M. & Witmer, Lawrence M. Mesozoic Birds: Above the Heads of Dinosaurs. pp. 339–388. ISBN 0-520-20094-2. 
  5. ^ a b Ericson P. G. P, Anderson C. L., Britton T., Elzanowski A., Johansson U. S., Kallersjo M., Ohlson J. I., Parsons T. J., Zuccon D., Mayr G. (22 December 2006). "Diversification of Neoaves: integration of molecular sequence data and fossils". Biol Lett 2 (4): 543–547. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2006.0523. PMC 1834003. PMID 17148284. 
  6. ^ Brown J., Payne B., Mindell D. (27 June 2007). "Nuclear DNA does not reconcile 'rocks' and 'clocks' in Neoaves: a comment on Ericson et al.". Biol Lett 3 (3): 1–3. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2006.0611. PMC 2464679. PMID 17389215. 
  7. ^ Romer, Alfred S.; Parsons, T. S. (1985). The Vertebrate Body (6th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Saunders. ISBN 978-0039107543. 
  8. ^ McDowell, Sam (1948). "The bony palate of birds". The Auk 65 (4): 520–549. doi:10.2307/4080603. 
  9. ^ Chiappe, Luis M. (2007). Glorified Dinosaurs: The Origin and Early Evolution of Birds. Sydney: University of New South Wales Press. ISBN 978-0-86840-413-4.