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For long, this singular rail was considered a member of a distinct subfamily Himantornithinae. This was based on the assumption that it was a sort of "living fossil", as it resembles other Gruiformes rather than other rails in many traits. But as it seems, the supposed plesiomorphies are actually atavistic or otherwise re-evolved traits in reaction to its African rainforest habitat. Its closest living relatives seem to be the Asian genera Amaurornis, Gallicrex, Megacrex, and the widespread African Aenigmatolimnas, with Megacrex and Himantornis representing ancient and ecologically quite similar lineages at the extreme ends of the group's distribution.
It is found in Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Togo, and Uganda.
- BirdLife International (2012). "Himantornis haematopus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- "ITIS Report: Himantornis". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 14 September 2014.
- Garcia-R et al. (2014): "Deep global evolutionary radiation in birds: Diversification and trait evolution in the cosmopolitan bird family Rallidae"
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