Phylogenetic analysis of the cuculidae (Aves, Cuculiformes) using behavioral and ecological characters

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:1996
Authors:J. M. Hughes
Pagination:10 - 22
Date Published:1996
Keywords:avian, bird, brood, Chrysococcyx, clutch, cuckoo, evolution, host, model, parasitism, size, specificity

A cladistic analysis of 21 genera of cuckoos (Aves, Cuculidae) using 28 behavioral and ecological characters produces one shortest-length tree (L = 80 steps, CI = 0.52, XI = 0.79, RC = 0.42) that differs from traditional classifications of the Cuculidae. My results suggest that two cuculid subfamilies, the terrestrial Neomorphinae and the Phaenicophaeinae, are polyphyletic. The obligate brood parasite Tapera (Neomorphinae) and the facultative brood parasite Coccyzus (Phaenicophaeinae) are removed from otherwise nonparasitic subfamilies and placed among the Old World obligate parasites in the Cuculinae. This suggests that: (1) brood parasitism arose only once in the Cuculidae rather than three times as previously thought; and (2) that terrestrial habitat use in Tapera has evolved secondarily. The placement of Coccyzus among the obligate parasites implies that the immediate ancestor of this genus was an obligate brood parasite. Therefore, the facultative behavior of Coccyzus represents a loss of obligate parasitism, rather than the development of facultative parasitism from a nonparasitic ancestor. In life, Coccyzus shares a number of life-history traits with the obligate brood parasites that support this hypothesis. Based on my analysis, I propose changes to the classification of the cuckoos that are consistent with the opinions of many early systematists, and the results of an unpublished phylogeny of the cuckoos based on postcranial osteological characters. In addition, my findings suggest that he Hoatzin (Opisthocomus hoatzin) is a cuckoo most closely related to the communally breeding anis (Crotophaginae).

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