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AOU Committee on Classification and Nomenclature (North & Middle America)

Votes on Proposals 2009-C

2009-C-1: Create a new order, Phaethontiformes, for the Phaethontidae
2009-C-2: Alter the traditional orders Pelecaniformes (excluding Phaethontidae) and Ciconiiformes to reflect new data on their relationships, and create a new order, Suliformes
2009-C-3: Remove the Accipitridae from the Falconiformes, and create a new order, Accipitriformes
2009-C-4: Elevate the Osprey to family status, Pandionidae
2009-C-5: Create a new order, Eurypygiformes, for the Sunbittern (and Kagu)
2009-C-6: Alter the traditional orders Apodiformes and Caprimulgiformes to reflect new data on their relationships
2009-C-7: Elevate the New World barbets and Semnornis barbets to their own families (Capitonidae and Semnornithidae)
2009-C-8: Recognize six families arising from the breakup of the Sylviidae
2009-C-9: Alter the composition of the Timaliidae by merging Zosterops and moving the Wrentit Chamaea fasciata to the Sylviidae
2009-C-10: Remove the longspurs (Calcarius) and snow buntings (Plectrophenax)from the Emberizidae and elevate them to the new family Calcariidae
2009-C-11: Create a new family, Viduidae, for the indigobirds and whydas

2009-C-1
Create a new order, Phaethontiformes, for the Phaethontidae

YES - 7 without comment.

YES. There is strong molecular support for this change.

YES. Clearly the only justifiable course of action.

YES. Multiple data-sets demand removal from Pelecaniformes.

YES. The evidence seems conclusive.

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2009-C-2
Alter the traditional orders Pelecaniformes (excluding Phaethontidae) and Ciconiiformes to reflect new data on their relationships, and create a new order, Suliformes

YES - 5 without comment.

YES - for the reasons given in the proposal.

YES. Option 2 (maintaining Pelecaniformes and Ardeiformes separate).Although I appreciate the reasoning for option 3, it rests primarily on minor differences in bootstrap values. However, the Ardeidae can be diagnosed as a group evidently as far back as the Paleocene (Calcardea) and are thus likely older than many groups we label as orders. [I here reveal my taste for using some index of age in fossil record for ranking higher taxa, with all appropriate caveats concerning the fossil record; at least such an approach makes it possible to assign objective meaning to higher ranks.] The Threskiornithidae likewise are diagnosable fairly far back, but I can’t locate the specifics. Including them in Ardeiformes would be unwise only if we think there is a good possibility that monophyly is violated. Note that “we” don’t seem to let this bother us for inclusion of Cathartidae in Accipitriformes, for which the support is weaker and for which there is much precedent for treating the cathartids at the rank of order. [And I here once again make a plug for treating the latter in their own order not only to be safe in terms of monophyly but also because cathartids are an ancient lineage.]

YES. Option 2 - 4 orders: Suliformes, Ardeiformes, Pelecaniformes, Ciconiiformes. Although the bootstrap values are super-impressive for the Ardeiformes herein, the Ardeidae+Threskiornithidae clade is an old traditional one with lots of morphological support.

YES. Option 2.

YES. I prefer option 2 for the reasons given by others.

YES. I favor the 3 order option recommended in the proposal.

YES. Option 3 seems to provide an acceptable solution.

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2009-C-3
Remove the Accipitridae from the Falconiformes, and create a new order, Accipitriformes

YES - 7 without comment.

YES - for reasons given in the proposal.

YES. SACC has already done this, in view of multiple data-sets indicating current Falconiformes is not monophyletic.

YES - now non-controversial.

YES. Another good solution to now overwhelming evidence.

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2009-C-4:
Elevate the Osprey to family status, Pandionidae

YES - 7 without comment.

YES. Morphological and molecular data support this treatment.

NO. I think it would be a mistake to split Osprey back off into its old family again. Unlike the situation with Falconidae and Accipitridae, it is sister to Accipitridae. Splitting it, in my view, is not consistent with the general tendency of the committee not to make a change that is essentially cosmetic. 

YES. I was on the fence about this, thinking that this is a good place for subfamilies, which do not appear to be being discussed. This change requires two single-species families (Sagittariidae also). But the Secretarybird and the Osprey are pretty distinct, and probably – roughly -- as distinct as cathartids.

YES. Pandion can be diagnosed as far back as the Miocene, roughly comparable to taxa we rank as families. I wonder if its demotion from family rank in AOU (1998) was ever explicitly explained.

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2009-C-5:
Create a new order, Eurypygiformes, for the Sunbittern (and Kagu)

YES - 8 without comment.

YES - for reasons given in the proposal.

YES. Multiple data-sets mandate this change.

YES. The evidence is overwhelming.

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2009-C-6:
Alter the traditional orders Apodiformes and Caprimulgiformes to reflect new data on their relationships

YES - 5 without comment.

YES. I vote in favor of the proposal recommendation to just move Aegothelidae from Caprimulgiformes to Apodiformes. This seems like the most conservative approach, given the lack of resolution of relationships among the rest of the Caprimulgiform families.

YES - but does it even matter what we do with an extralimital family? 

YES - but contrary to recommended action. Not recognizing three new orders just because they are small and novel is not strong rationale, and those three new orders would each represent remarkably different taxa, in my opinion. Evidently the fossil record of the oilbirds extends back to the Eocene, and a fossil from the Eocene of France is attributed to the Nyctibiidae. Thus, assuming these identifications are correct, these two groups are as old as many other nonpasserine taxa ranked as orders. 

NO. I favor moving Aegothelidae to Apodiformes as suggested in the recommendation of this proposal, but otherwise leaving the taxa alone, at least for the time being.

YES. I agree with the proposal recommendation that suggests that we only move Aegothelidae to Apodiformes (which has no effect on the AOU-CLC). This would maintain a possibly paraphyletic Caprimulgiformes, but the clade in question that would render the order paraphyletic (Caprimulgidae + (Apodiformes + Aegothelidae)) is not well supported. Given the polytomy at the base of the Caprimulgiformes +Apodiformes, I think it is best to keep the traditional orders, but add a note or create a supra-order taxon for Apodiformes +Caprimulgiformes.

NO. I realize that this retains a paraphyletic Caprimulgiformes but recognize that additional work needs to be done to definitively resolve the relationships among these old lineages before they can (likely) be carved into three orders. Having a single order to make it monophyletic in the meantime seems like putting too much heterogeneity into one order, as the proposal states.

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2009-C-7:
Elevate the New World barbets and Semnornis barbets to their own families (Capitonidae and Semnornithidae)

YES - 6 without comment.

YES - for reasons given in the proposal (i.e., genetic relationships, morphological distinctiveness, agreement with SACC).

YES. Three families (Rhamphastidae, Capitonidae and Semnornithidae). Although it wouldn’t be so bad to have them all lumped in Rhamphastidae.

NO. I see I’m outvoted here, but I don’t favor temporary recognition of Semnornithidae until better data come along that enable it to be placed in one of the other families. Given that we can continue to keep them all in Ramphastidae, it seems disruptive and premature to erect another previously unrecognized family knowing it's likely to be temporary.

YES - for reasons stated in SACC proposals that implemented this classification. Once better data resolve the position of Semnornis, however, I would move to include it within one of the other two families.

YES. Contrary to another comment, I don't think that Semnornithidae is a temporary family erected until there is better data. I think it seems pretty clear that Semnornis is sister to the combination of the other New World Barbets plus toucans.   

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2009-C-8:
Recognize six families arising from the breakup of the Sylviidae

YES - 7 without comment.

YES - for reasons given in the proposal.

YES - for all of the reasons outlined in the proposal.

YES. A - Polioptilidae, YES - This is a long-needed split. B - Cettiidae, YES - Marginally in favor (I would be opposed if we were tasked with considering birds of the world). I read Alstrom et al. and Johansson et al. differently. There are taxon sampling issues involved that make me question whether family limits are as robustly determined in this area as suggested. Johansson et al.’s addition of Erythrocercus mccallii makes this case weaker (this difference is overlooked in the proposal: Cettiidae+Erythrocercus is the clade sister to the proposed Phylloscopidae and Aegithalidae). I do not know this group of birds and whether family-level phenotypic differences are obviously present. C - Megaluridae, YES. D - Donacobiidae, YES. E - Acrocephalidae, YES. F - Phylloscopidae, YES - although I am not fully comfortable that family limits have been accurately determined in this area yet.

YES. Unlike most such sweeping proposals, this one seems relatively clear-cut.

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2009-C-9:
Alter the composition of the Timaliidae by merging Zosterops and moving the Wrentit Chamaea fasciata to the Sylviidae

YES - 5 without comment.

YES - for reasons given in the proposal.

YES - for all of the reasons outlined in the proposal.

YES. I think that it would be better, however, to separate out the Zosteropinae (from Gelang et al, includes Zosterops + Yuhina) as a family level taxon. It has 100% support and is sister to the rest of the regular babblers.

NOTE: The Gelang et al result does not preclude us from continuing to recognize the family Zosteropidae, provided that the genus Yuhina is added to the family (part of Stachyris would also need to be added). A modified Zosteropidae, consisting of the current family plus Yuhina and Stachyris whiteheadi (which do not occur in our area), receives 100% bootstrap support and 1.00 posterior probability in the Gelang et al paper and is the sister group to the remainder of the Timaliidae. The proposed sinking of Zosteropidae has apparently generated controversy among Old World ornithologists and may not be accepted in other lists. Because we prefer to be followers rather than leaders when dealing with predominantly Old World taxa, a modification of 2009-C-9 proposes only the following: (1) reposition and rearrange the Zosteropidae and Timaliidae such that they follow the Sylviidae and precede the Acrocephalidae (in the order Sylviidae, Zosteropidae, Timaliidae, Acrocephalidae) and (2) move Chamaea fasciata from the Timaliidae to the Sylviidae.

YES - although I agree about keeping the Zosteropidae.

YES. I would favor the suggestion of leaving Zosteropidae adjacent to Timaliidae.

YES. I thought the Gelang et al. treatment was perfectly reasonable (Timaliidae, Zosteropinae), but I will accede to the modified proposal as well if we are to be followers.

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2009-C-10:
Remove the longspurs (Calcarius) and snow buntings Plectrophenax)from the Emberizidae and elevate them to the new family Calcariidae

YES - 7 without comment.

YES - for reasons given in the proposal.

YES - for all the reasons outlined in the proposal. Amazing finding.

YES. The recommendation in the proposal does not have our current sequence correct. We currently have Peucedramus in its own family basal to the rest of the 9-primired oscines, followed by Parulidae, with the Fringillidae at the end of the 9-pp clade. It would seem from the Yuri & Mindell paper that Peucedramus is outside the 9-pp clade and that Fringillidae should be basal to the rest of the 9 pp clade, and that Calcaridae is basal then to the rest of the 9-pps. We would need another proposal to shift these around.

NOTE: The proposal recommends recognizing Calcariidae and placing it after Fringillidae at the beginning of the New World 9-primaried oscines (NW9PO), as indicated by the results of Yuri and Mindell (2002). However, the current AOU sequence places Fringillidae after the NW9PO. There is considerable doubt about the placement of a Fringillidae-NW9PO clade among the OW weavers and sparrows and Prunella/Peucedramus and that there is some doubt also about the sister relationship of the NW9PO and Fringillidae - which was strongly supported by Barker (2004) but not by Ericson and Johansson (2003), who found strong support for a Motacillidae-NW9PO sister relationship. 2009-C-10 is modified to propose that the Calcariidae, if recognized, be placed after the Peucedramidae and before the Parulidae in the linear sequence, leaving the Fringillidae in their current position for the time being.

YES. Although no family-level characteristics are given, and, being familiar with these birds, there are not any really obvious ones, I have to be steered more by my undesirability of seeing the overly broad Emberizidae that Alstrom et al. propose (which would go entirely against the previous splitting of Sylviidae).

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2009-C-11:
Create a new family, Viduidae, for the indigobirds and whydas

YES - 5 without comment.

NO. I see no real reason.

YES - only because most everyone else has done it - but it really does not matter.

NO. I am generally opposed to a purely cosmetic change in family status. The recognition of Viduidae is not required to create monophyletic families, and I think its separation would result in the loss of information regarding the evolution of its unique behavioral suite of characteristics.

YES. Although arbitrary, this group is just so different from estrildids that I’d favor this treatment.

YES. This one is simply a matter of assigning rank, arbitrarily, but I agree with the reasons given in the proposal.

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