Morphological characteristics follow the mtDNA sequence of evolutionary descent within the family Calcariidae
presentationposted on 13.10.2014, 00:00 by David Rach
The family Calcariidae is a group of sparrow-like birds inhabiting grass-steppe habitats of North America. Mitochondrial DNA analysis has recently revealed that the Calcariidae is composed of two subclades, with the McCown's Longspur (Rhynchophanes mccownii, formerly Calcarius mccownii) more closely aligned to the Plectrophenax buntings in evolutionary descent than to the Calcariidae longspurs as previously believed (Klicka et al. 2003). I took morphometric measurements from museum specimens (Northwest College, University of Alaska – Fairbanks, Montana State University) of all the species in the family, ran a principal component analysis (PCA), analysis of variance (ANOVA) and multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA). I found that hallux length and bill depth are inversely related, and therefore along with primary feather emargination, are the best indicators predicting the two subclades, supporting the mitochondrial DNA findings, overriding proximal effects of habitat selection.