The tempo of avian diversification during the Quaternary

Robert M. Zink, John Klicka, Brian R. Barber

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106 Scopus citations


It is generally assumed that the Quaternary was a period of heightened diversification in temperate vertebrate organisms. Previous molecular systematics studies have challenged this assertion. We re-examined this issue in north temperate birds using log-lineage plots and distributions of sister-taxon distances. Log-lineage plots support earlier conclusions that avian diversification slowed during the Quaternary. To test plots of empirical sister-taxon distances we simulated three sets of phylogenies: constant speciation and extinction, a pulse of recent speciation, and a pulse of recent extinction. Previous opinions favour the model of recent speciation although our empirical dataset on 74 avian comparisons failed to reject a distribution derived from the constant and extinction models. Hence, it does not appear that the Quaternary was a period of exceptional rates of diversification, relative to the background rate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)215-220
Number of pages6
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1442
StatePublished - Feb 29 2004


  • Diversification rates
  • Log-lineage plots
  • Quaternary
  • Simulated phylogenies
  • Sister taxa


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