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Title: Ancient DNA from the extinct Haitian cave-rail ( Nesotrochis steganinos ) suggests a biogeographic connection between the Caribbean and Old World
Worldwide decline in biodiversity during the Holocene has impeded a comprehensive understanding of pre-human biodiversity and biogeography. This is especially true on islands, because many recently extinct island taxa were morphologically unique, complicating assessment of their evolutionary relationships using morphology alone. The Caribbean remains an avian hotspot but was more diverse before human arrival in the Holocene. Among the recently extinct lineages is the enigmatic genus Nesotrochis, comprising three flightless species. Based on morphology, Nesotrochis has been considered an aberrant rail (Rallidae) or related to flufftails (Sarothruridae). We recovered a nearly complete mitochondrial genome of Nesotrochis steganinos from fossils, discovering that it is not a rallid but instead is sister to Sarothruridae, volant birds now restricted to Africa and New Guinea, and the recently extinct, flightless Aptornithidae of New Zealand. This result suggests a widespread or highly dispersive most recent common ancestor of the group. Prior to human settlement, the Caribbean avifauna had a far more cosmopolitan origin than is evident from extant species.
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Award ID(s):
2034316 2033905
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Biology Letters
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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