Tetrapod Zoology

Tetrapod Zoology

Amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals - living and extinct

Eurylaimides, Tyrannida and Furnariida: the suboscine passerines


Here's a brief extract from the birds chapter (Naish 2012) of The Complete Dinosaur, second edition, with some slight tweaks [get the book here on; here on]. Much more on this volume soon. The section of text here is on suboscine passerines.

A selection of suboscine passerines. A, Red-billed scythebill (Campylorhamphus trochilirostris), a dendrocolaptine furnariid that occurs from Panama south to Argentina. The long bill is used for probing into bark and among epiphytes. Dendrocolaptines, or woodcreepers, were long regarded as a distinct family but appear nested within Furnariidae. B, Amazonian umbrellabird (Cephalopterus ornatus), a cotingid. One of three umbrellabird species, it is the largest South American passerine. C, Wattled false sunbird (Neodrepanis coruscans) of Madagascar, a philepittid suboscine. D, Fairy pitta (Pitta nympha) of tropical Asia, a pittid suboscine. Pittas are the largest Old World suboscine group (containing 32 species) and mostly occur in Asia and Australia (two occur in Africa). They are all short-tailed terrestrial foragers. E, Black-throated huet-huet (Pteroptochos tarnii), a rhinocryptid (tapaculo) of Argentina and Chile. Tapaculos are terrestrial foragers with poor flight abilities, so their former presence in Cuba and the Isle of Youth is surprising because it requires overwater dispersal. Redrawn from other sources by D. Naish.

Within passerines (the so-called ‘perching birds’), molecular work shows that New Zealand wrens are the sister group to Eupasseres, the great clade that includes Suboscines (also called Tyranni) and Oscines. Suboscines includes the Old World broadbills (Eurylaimidae), asities (Philepittidae), and pittas (Pittidae)--all of which are grouped together as Eurylaimides--and the diverse American clade Tyrannides. Eurylaimides is not exclusive to the Old World, as the Sapayoa Sapayoa aenigma of northern South America (once known as the Broad-billed manakin) is a close relative of African and Indo-Malayan broadbills.

A furnariid: Scaly-throated foliage-gleaner (Anabacerthia variegaticeps); photo by Michael Woodruff, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Tyrannides includes tyrant flycatchers, cotingas, and manakins (grouped together as Tyrannida; they possess the simple haplophone syrinx), and the ovenbirds, woodcreepers, and antbirds (grouped together as Furnariida; they possess the complex tracheophone syrinx). Cotingas (Cotingidae) and manakins (Pipridae) are brightly colored neotropical suboscines, many of which exhibit remarkable display adaptations. Manakins make whirring and clicking noises by vibrating modified wing feathers. Woodcreepers (Dendrocolaptinae) are convergently similar to woodpeckers and possess stiffened rectrices, partially fused toes, legs specialized for vertical climbing, and a suite of cranial features that allow them to pry and probe into wood. Ovenbirds incorporate 55 genera and have been described as the most diverse neornithine family in terms of natural history and ecology [Adjacent ovenbird photo by Michael Woodruff]. They include species that strongly resemble oscines from elsewhere in the world: there are ovenbirds that resemble thrushes, dippers, larks, thrashers, sylviid warblers, and creepers.

For previous Tet Zoo articles on passerines, see...

Refs - -

Naish, D. 2012. Birds. In Brett-Surman, M. K., Holtz, T. R. & Farlow, J. O. (eds) The Complete Dinosaur, 2nd edition. Indiana University Press (Bloomington & Indianapolis), pp. 379-423.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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