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Cranes, Rails, and Coots

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Mississippi Sandhill Crane Crowned crane (Balearica pavonia), Tanzania
taxon links Monophyly Uncertain[down<--]Neoaves Interpreting the tree
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This tree diagram shows the relationships between several groups of organisms.

The root of the current tree connects the organisms featured in this tree to their containing group and the rest of the Tree of Life. The basal branching point in the tree represents the ancestor of the other groups in the tree. This ancestor diversified over time into several descendent subgroups, which are represented as internal nodes and terminal taxa to the right.

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You can click on the root to travel down the Tree of Life all the way to the root of all Life, and you can click on the names of descendent subgroups to travel up the Tree of Life all the way to individual species.

For more information on ToL tree formatting, please see Interpreting the Tree or Classification. To learn more about phylogenetic trees, please visit our Phylogenetic Biology pages.

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Although the order Gruiformes is likely not a natural group, the five families within the suborder "Grues" show close affinities in both morphological (Cracraft, 1982; Livezey, 1998) and DNA (Sibley and Ahlquist, 1990; Houde et al., 1997; Fain et al., 2007) comparisons.  Displayed relationships within Grues are from Fain et al. (2007).  Inferred placement of Psophiidae differs across genes and studies.  Livezey and Zusi (2007) find Grues to be paraphyletic, with the clade Rallidae+Heliornithidae allied with Charadriiformes; however, this finding has little statistical support.

Containing group: Neoaves


Cracraft, J. 1982. Phylogenetic relationships and transatlantic biogeography of some gruiform birds. Geobios, Mem. Spec. 6: 393-402.

Fain, M. G., C. Krajewski, and P. Houde. 2007. Phylogeny of ?core Gruiformes? (Aves: Grues) and resolution of the Limpkin?Sungrebe problem. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 43 (2): 515-529.

Houde, P., A. Cooper, E. Leslie, A. E. Strand, and G. A. Montano. 1997. Phylogeney and evolution of 12S rDNA in Gruiformes (Aves). In: Mindell, D. P. (ed.), Avian Molecular Evolution and Systematics. Academic Press, San Diego. Pp. 121-158.

Livezey, B. C. 1998 A phylogenetic analysis of the Gruiformes (Aves) based on morphological characters, with an emphasis on rails (Rallidae). Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. Lond. 353: 2077-2151.

Livezey, B. C., and R. L. Zusi. 2007. Higher-order phylogeny of modern birds (Theropoda, Aves: Neornithes) based on comparative anatomy. II. Analysis and discussion. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 149 (1): 1-95.

Sibley, C. G. and Ahlquist, J. E. 1990. Phylogeny and classification of birds: a study in molecular evolution. Yale University Press, New Haven.

Title Illustrations
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Mississippi Sandhill Crane
Scientific Name Grus canadensis pulla
Location Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge, USA
Comments Mississippi Sandhill Crane
Creator John and Karen Hollingsworth
Acknowledgements Photo courtesy U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Specimen Condition Live Specimen
Scientific Name Porphyrio porphyrio
Location Shortland Wetlands, Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia
Specimen Condition Live Specimen
Source Swamphen
Source Collection Flickr
ToL Image Use creative commons This image is licensed under the Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Creative Commons License.
Copyright © 2006 Marj Kibby
Crowned crane (Balearica pavonia), Tanzania
Scientific Name Balearica pavonina
Location Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
Specimen Condition Live Specimen
Identified By David Bygott
Life Cycle Stage Adult
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Copyright © 2005
About This Page
Citing this page:

Tree of Life Web Project. 2007. Gruiformes. Cranes, Rails, and Coots. Version 31 August 2007 (temporary). http://tolweb.org/Gruiformes/26307/2007.08.31 in The Tree of Life Web Project, http://tolweb.org/

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This page is a Tree of Life Branch Page.

Each ToL branch page provides a synopsis of the characteristics of a group of organisms representing a branch of the Tree of Life. The major distinction between a branch and a leaf of the Tree of Life is that each branch can be further subdivided into descendent branches, that is, subgroups representing distinct genetic lineages.

For a more detailed explanation of the different ToL page types, have a look at the Structure of the Tree of Life page.

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