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  1. Abstract Biodiversity research has advanced by testing expectations of ecological and evolutionary hypotheses through the linking of large-scale genetic, distributional, and trait datasets. The rise of molecular systematics over the past 30 years has resulted in a wealth of DNA sequences from around the globe. Yet, advances in molecular systematics also have created taxonomic instability, as new estimates of evolutionary relationships and interpretations of species limits have required widespread scientific name changes. Taxonomic instability, colloquially “splits, lumps, and shuffles,” presents logistical challenges to large-scale biodiversity research because (1) the same species or sets of populations may be listed under different names in different data sources, or (2) the same name may apply to different sets of populations representing different taxonomic concepts. Consequently, distributional and trait data are often difficult to link directly to primary DNA sequence data without extensive and time-consuming curation. Here, we present RANT: Reconciliation of Avian NCBI Taxonomy. RANT applies taxonomic reconciliation to standardize avian taxon names in use in NCBI GenBank, a primary source of genetic data, to a widely used and regularly updated avian taxonomy: eBird/Clements. Of 14,341 avian species/subspecies names in GenBank, 11,031 directly matched an eBird/Clements; these link to more than 6 million nucleotide sequences. For the remaining unmatched avian names in GenBank, we used Avibase’s system of taxonomic concepts, taxonomic descriptions in Cornell’s Birds of the World, and DNA sequence metadata to identify corresponding eBird/Clements names. Reconciled names linked to more than 600,000 nucleotide sequences, ~9% of all avian sequences on GenBank. Nearly 10% of eBird/Clements names had nucleotide sequences listed under 2 or more GenBank names. Our taxonomic reconciliation is a first step towards rigorous and open-source curation of avian GenBank sequences and is available at GitHub, where it can be updated to correspond to future annual eBird/Clements taxonomic updates. 
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  3. Abstract Background

    Divergence time estimation is fundamental to understanding many aspects of the evolution of organisms, such as character evolution, diversification, and biogeography. With the development of sequence technology, improved analytical methods, and knowledge of fossils for calibration, it is possible to obtain robust molecular dating results. However, while phylogenomic datasets show great promise in phylogenetic estimation, the best ways to leverage the large amounts of data for divergence time estimation has not been well explored. A potential solution is to focus on a subset of data for divergence time estimation, which can significantly reduce the computational burdens and avoid problems with data heterogeneity that may bias results.


    In this study, we obtained thousands of ultraconserved elements (UCEs) from 130 extant galliform taxa, including representatives of all genera, to determine the divergence times throughout galliform history. We tested the effects of different “gene shopping” schemes on divergence time estimation using a carefully, and previously validated, set of fossils. Our results found commonly used clock-like schemes may not be suitable for UCE dating (or other data types) where some loci have little information. We suggest use of partitioning (e.g., PartitionFinder) and selection of tree-like partitions may be good strategies to select a subset of data for divergence time estimation from UCEs. Our galliform time tree is largely consistent with other molecular clock studies of mitochondrial and nuclear loci. With our increased taxon sampling, a well-resolved topology, carefully vetted fossil calibrations, and suitable molecular dating methods, we obtained a high quality galliform time tree.


    We provide a robust galliform backbone time tree that can be combined with more fossil records to further facilitate our understanding of the evolution of Galliformes and can be used as a resource for comparative and biogeographic studies in this group.

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  5. Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 22, 2024
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  7. Abstract Tropical mountains feature marked species turnover along elevational gradients and across complex topography, resulting in great concentrations of avian biodiversity. In these landscapes, particularly among morphologically conserved and difficult to observe avian groups, species limits still require clarification. One such lineage is Scytalopus tapaculos, which are among the morphologically most conserved birds. Attention to their distinctive vocal repertoires and phylogenetic relationships has resulted in a proliferation of newly identified species, many of which are restricted range endemics. Here, we present a revised taxonomy and identify species limits among high-elevation populations of Scytalopus tapaculos inhabiting the Peruvian Andes. We employ an integrated framework using a combination of vocal information, mitochondrial DNA sequences, and appearance, gathered from our own fieldwork over the past 40 yr and supplemented with community-shared birdsong archives and museum specimens. We describe 3 new species endemic to Peru. Within all 3 of these species there is genetic differentiation, which in 2 species is mirrored by subtle geographic plumage and vocal variation. In a fourth species, Scytalopus schulenbergi, we document deep genetic divergence and plumage differences despite overall vocal similarity. We further propose that an extralimital taxon, Scytalopus opacus androstictus, be elevated to species rank, based on a diagnostic vocal character. Our results demonstrate that basic exploration and descriptive work using diverse data sources continues to identify new species of birds, particularly in tropical environs. 
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  8. Abstract

    The gallopheasants comprise a clade of 22 species including some of the most elaborately plumaged and highly ornamented birds in the world. They also occupy a remarkable breath of environments and habitats, ranging from lowland rainforests to high grasslands and steppes of the Tibetan plateau. Here, we provide the first well‐resolved species phylogeny of this charismatic group, inferred from ultraconserved elements, nuclear introns and mitochondrial DNA sequences. Unlike previous studies which found unresolvable relationships and suggested a rapid initial burst of diversification, we identified a well‐resolved phylogeny supported in both concatenated and coalescent analytical frameworks, and a steady accrual of lineages through time. Morphological trait reconstructions demonstrated strong phylogenetic signal, not only for highly ornamented males, but also in more cryptically plumaged females. Environmental niche similarly exhibited strong phylogenetic signal. Moreover, evolution of male traits, female traits and environmental niche were all significantly correlated, making it difficult to disentangle their individual roles in gallopheasant diversification.

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