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Temporal range: Eocene - present 50–0 Ma
Northern Gannet 2006 2.jpg
Northern gannet (Morus bassanus)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Clade: Aequornithes
Order: Suliformes
Sharpe, 1891

The order Suliformes (/ˈsjlɪfɔːrmz/, dubbed "Phalacrocoraciformes" by Christidis & Boles 2008) is an order recognised by the International Ornithologist's Union.[1] In regard to the recent evidence that the traditional Pelecaniformes is polyphyletic,[2] it has been suggested that the group be divided to reflect the true evolutionary relationships, a 2017 study indicated that they are most closely related to Otidiformes (bustards) and Ciconiiformes (storks).

Systematics and evolution[edit]

Of the families in Pelecaniformes, only Pelecanidae, Balaenicipitidae, and Scopidae remain. The tropicbird family Phaethontidae has since been moved to their own order Phaethontiformes. Genetic analysis seems to show that the Pelecaniformes is actually closely related to the Ardeidae and Threskiornithidae. As for the Suliformes, they are distantly related to the current Pelecaniformes.[3] According to Hackett et al. (2008), loons, penguins, storks, and as well as Suliformes and Pelecaniformes, all seem to have evolved from a common ancestor. The proposed waterbird superorder has been suggested.[4]

In their landmark 2008 work Systematics and Taxonomy of Australian Birds, Australian ornithologists Les Christidis and Walter E. Boles coined the name Phalacrocoraciformes for the group due to the much greater number of species of cormorants (Phalacrocoracidae) over boobies and gannets (Sulidae).[5] However, this has not been taken up elsewhere.

In 1994, American ornithologist Walter J. Bock wrote that the name Suloidea had been used consistently as a term for a superfamily containing the two families, so therefore "Sulidae" and not "Phalacrocoracidae" should take priority in any arrangement containing the two genera.[6]

In 2010, the AOU adopted the term Suliformes for the taxon.[7] The IOC followed in 2011.[8]

In 1994, Martyn Kennedy and colleagues constructed a behavioural data set, with the resulting tree showing a high level of congruence with existing phylogenies based on genetics or morphology. It showed the darters as sister group to the cormorants and shags, with the gannets and boobies, then pelicans, then frigatebirds and lastly tropicbirds as progressively earlier offshoots.[9]






Cladogram based on Gibb, G.C. et al. (2013)[10]


Bones of the left foot of Fregata aquila showing pectinate edge to mid claw,[11] a characteristic of the Suliformes.[12]
Little cormorant Microcarbo niger


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-03-01. Retrieved 2012-03-01.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ Mayr, Gerald (2003). "The phylogenetic affinities of the Shoebill (Balaeniceps rex)". Journal für Ornithologie. 144: 157–175. doi:10.1046/j.1439-0361.2003.03002.x (inactive 31 October 2021).CS1 maint: DOI inactive as of October 2021 (link)
  3. ^ 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. DOI: 10.1126/science.1253451
  4. ^ Hackett, S.J. et al. (2008) A Phylogenomic Study of Birds Reveals Their Evolutionary History. Science 320, 1763.
  5. ^ Christidis, Les; Boles, Walter E. (2008). Systematics and Taxonomy of Australian Birds. Canberra: CSIRO Publishing. p. 50. ISBN 978-0-643-06511-6.
  6. ^ Bock, Walter J. (1994). "History and nomenclature of avian family-group names". Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History. 222: 1–281 [166–67]. If Sula and Phalacrocorax are included in the same family-level taxon (e.g. superfamily), then Sulidae Reichenbach, 1849 (1836) (Sula Brisson, 1760) has priority in preference to Phalacrocoracidae Reichenbach, 1849-50 (1836) (Phalacrocorax Brisson, 1760), because the name Suloidea has been consistently used in avian classification as a superfamily name. Phalacrocoracidae Reichenbach, 1849-50 (1836) can still be used for any taxon containing Phalacrocorax but not Sula.
  7. ^ R. Terry Chesser, Richard C. Banks, F. Keith Barker, Carla Cicero, Jon L. Dunn, Andrew W. Kratter, Irby J. Lovette, Pamela C. Rasmussen, J. V. Remsen Jr., James D. Rising, Douglas F. Stotz and Kevin Winker (July 2010). "Fifty-First Supplement to the American Ornithologists' Union Check-List of North American Birds" (PDF). The Auk. 127 (3): 726–44. doi:10.1525/auk.2010.127.4.966. S2CID 198156876.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  8. ^ "Taxonomy Version 2". IOC World Bird List: Version 3.1. 2011. Retrieved 15 July 2012.
  9. ^ Kennedy, Martyn; Spencer, Hamish G.; Gray, Russell D. (1996). "Hop, step and gape: do the social displays of the Pelecaniformes reflect phylogeny?" (PDF). Animal Behaviour. 51 (2): 273–291. doi:10.1006/anbe.1996.0028. S2CID 53202305.
  10. ^ Gibb, Gillian C.; Kennedy, Martyn; Penny, David (2013). "Beyond phylogeny: Pelecaniform and ciconiiform birds, and long-term niche stability". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 68 (2): 229–238. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2013.03.021. PMID 23562800.
  11. ^ Shufeldt, Robert Wilson (1903). "The osteology of the Steganopodes". Memoirs of the Carnegie Museum. 1 (3): 109–223.
  12. ^ Mayr, Gerald (2008). "Avian higher-level phylogeny: well-supported clades and what we can learn from a phylogenetic analysis of 2954 morphological characters" (PDF). J. Zool. Syst. Evol. Res. 46 (1): 63–72. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0469.2007.00433.x.