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Temporal range: Early CretaceousHolocene, 120–0 Ma
Gallus gallus female - Kaeng Krachan.jpg
Female red junglefowl (Gallus gallus)
Passer domesticus male (15).jpg
House sparrow (Passer domesticus)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Infraclass: Neognathae
Pycraft, 1900


Neognaths (Neognathae) are birds within the subclass Neornithes of the class Aves. The Neognathae include virtually all living birds; exceptions being their sister taxon (Palaeognathae), which contains the tinamous and the flightless ratites.

There are nearly 10,000 species of neognaths. Since the late Cretaceous period, from which the earliest fossils are known, they have undergone adaptive radiation producing the diversity of form, function, and behavior that we see today. It includes the order Passeriformes (perching birds), the largest clade of land vertebrates, containing some 60% of living birds and being more than twice as speciose as rodents and about five times as speciose as Chiroptera (bats), which are the largest clades of mammals. There are also some very small orders, usually birds of very unclear relationships like the puzzling hoatzin.

The neognaths have fused metacarpals, an elongate third finger, and 13 or fewer vertebrae. They differ from the Palaeognathae in features like the structure of their jawbones. "Neognathae" means "new jaws", but it seems that the supposedly "more ancient" paleognath jaws are among the few apomorphic (more derived) features of this group as compared to the neognaths.[citation needed]

Taxonomy and systematics[edit]

The Neognathae were long ranked as a superorder and not subdivided any further. Attempts to do so, as in the Conspectus of Charles Lucien Bonaparte, were never accepted by a significant majority of ornithologists. Until the 1980s, there was little subdivision of the Aves in general, and even less of phylogenetic merit. Since then, the availability of massive amounts of new data from fossils (especially Enantiornithes and other Mesozoic birds) as well as molecular (DNA and protein) sequences allowed scientists to refine the classification. With new groups of neognath orders being verified, the taxonomic rank of the group needed to shift. Most researchers have now employed the unranked taxa of phylogenetic nomenclature.[2]

The Neognathae are universally accepted to subdivide into two lineages, the "fowl" clade Galloanseres and the Neoaves (sometimes called "higher neognaths"). The subdivisions of the latter are still not well resolved, but several monophyletic lineages have been proposed, such as the Mirandornithes, Cypselomorphae, Metaves, and Coronaves. Although groups such as the former two (uniting a few closely related orders) are robustly supported, this cannot be said for the Metaves and Coronaves division for which there is no material evidence at present, while the Mesozoic record of Neognathae is at present utterly devoid of birds that should have been present if these proposed clades were real.[3]


The orders are arranged in a sequence that attempts to follow the modern view on neognath phylogeny. It differs from the widely used Clements taxonomy as well as from the Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy, combining those elements from each that more modern research agrees with while updating those that are refuted. Most of the changes affect those "higher landbirds" that are sometimes united as near passerines.[4]


Feduccia defined the clade Neognathia as birds whose palatal mobility increased due to the following modifications (Feduccia 1980, 1996):


Neognathae phylogeny based on Jarvis, E.D. et al. (2014)[5] with some clade names after Yury, T. et al. (2013).[6]


Galloanserae (waterfowls and landfowls)Red jungle fowl white background.pngDuck-293474 white background.jpg


Mirandornithes (flamingos and grebes)Flamingo1209 white background.jpgWestern Grebe white background.jpg


Columbiformes (pigeons)Columba livia in Japan white background.JPG

Mesitornithiformes (mesites)Subdesert Mesite Male white background.jpg

Pteroclidiformes (sandgrouses)Pin-tailed sandgrouse (Pterocles alchata) white background.jpg



Apodiformes (hummingbirds, swifts)White-eared Hummingbird (Basilinna leucotis) white background.jpg




Cuculiformes (cuckoos)Common Cuckoo by Mike McKenzie white background.jpg

Otidiformes (bustards)Eupodotis afraoides -Kalahari Gemsbok National Park, South Africa-8 white background.jpg

Musophagiformes (turacos)Red-crested Turaco RWD white background.jpg

Opisthocomiformes (hoatzin)Hoatzin white background.jpg


Gruiformes (rails and cranes)Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis pratensis) (6852440498) white background.jpg

Charadriiformes (shorebirds)Chroicocephalus ridibundus (summer) white background.jpg

Aequornithes (loons, penguins, herons, pelicans, storks, etc.)Chinstrap Penguin white background.jpgWeißstorch (Ciconia ciconia) white background.jpg


Phaethontiformes (tropicbirds)Red-billed Tropicbird JCB white background.jpg

Eurypygiformes (sunbittern, kagu)Sunbittern RWD white background.jpg


CathartiformesBlack Vulture RWD2013A white background.jpg

AccipitriformesGyps fulvus -Basque Country-8 white background.jpgMaakotka (Aquila chrysaetos) by Jarkko Järvinen white background.jpg

Strigiformes (owls)Tyto alba -British Wildlife Centre, Surrey, England-8a (1) white background.jpg


Coliiformes (mousebirds)


Leptosomatiformes (cuckoo roller)


Trogoniformes (trogons)Trogon surrucura brazil white background.jpg


Bucerotiformes (hornbills, hoopoe and wood hoopoes)Nordlig hornkorp white background.jpg


CoraciiformesHalcyon smyrnensis in India (8277355382) white background.jpg

PiciformesDendrocopos major -Durham, England -female-8 white background.jpgRamphastos toco -Stadtgärtnerei Zürich - 20100919 white background.jpg


Cariamiformes (seriemas, terror birds etc.)Seriema (Cariama cristata) white background.jpgPhorusrhacid skeleton white background.jpg


Falconiformes (falcons)Male Peregrine Falcon (7172188034) white background.jpg


Psittaciformes (parrots)Cockatiel Parakeet (Nymphicus hollandicus)9 white background.jpg

Passeriformes (songbirds and kin)Gorrion alfeizar Habana white background.jpgCarrion crow 20090612 white background.jpg


  1. ^ Van Tuinen M. (2009) Birds (Aves). In The Timetree of Life, Hedges SB, Kumar S (eds). Oxford: Oxford University Press; 409–411.
  2. ^ Mindell & Brown (2005)
  3. ^ For a draft phylogeny of Neoaves that is based on a review of massive amounts of published sources, and probably rather close to "the real thing", see Mindell et al. (2005)
  4. ^ Mindell et al. (2005)
  5. ^ Jarvis, E.D. et al. (2014) Whole-genome analyses resolve early branches in the tree of life of modern birds. Science, 346(6215):1320-1331.
  6. ^ Yuri, T. et al. (2013) Parsimony and Model-Based Analyses of Indels in Avian Nuclear Genes Reveal Congruent and Incongruent Phylogenetic Signals. Biology, 2(1):419-444. doi:10.3390/biology2010419


  • Mindell, David P. & Brown, Joseph W. (2005): The Tree of Life Web Project - Neornithes. Version of 2005-DEC-14. Retrieved 2008-JAN-08.
  • Mindell, David P.; Brown, Joseph W. & Harshman, John (2005): The Tree of Life Web Project - Neoaves. Version of 2005-DEC-14. Retrieved 2008-JAN-08.

External links[edit]