Biology ETDs

Publication Date

Summer 6-12-2018


How and why species diversify is a central theme of evolutionary biology. Species-rich, morphologically diverse, pantropical clades provide rare opportunities to explore questions about drivers of diversification in the tropics. Here, we present the first complete species tree of Coraciiformes (6 families, ~177 species of kingfishers, motmots, bee-eaters, and allies), produced with thousands of ultraconserved elements. We recovered a well-supported tree which shows that there are two clades within Coraciiformes: 1) bee-eaters sister to rollers + ground- rollers and 2) todies sister to motmots + kingfishers. We estimated the biogeographical history of the group, explored bill shape evolution with a comprehensive morphometric dataset, and compared macroevolutionary diversification and phenotypic evolution rate shifts across the phylogeny. Our Bayesian time-calibrated tree based on 500 ultraconserved loci and calibrated with fossils and secondary calibrations, inferred older divergence dates for the order. We inferred a Nearctic ancestral range of Coraciiformes 57.4 Ma and Indomalayan origin of kingfishers at 37.5 Ma. Elevated rates of speciation in South Pacific Todiramphus kingfishers were not correlated with changes in bill shape, but could be associated with colonization of insular oceanic island systems.




Alcedinindae, avian systematics, Coracii, historical biogeography, macroevolutionary dynamics, morphometrics, ultraconserved elements

Document Type


Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

UNM Biology Department

First Committee Member (Chair)

Michael J. Andersen

Second Committee Member

Christopher C. Witt

Third Committee Member

James H. Degnan