Phylogenetic definitions for 25 higher-level clade names of birds

George Sangster, Edward L. Braun, Ulf S. Johansson, Rebecca T. Kimball, Gerald Mayr, Alexander Suh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
14 Downloads (Pure)


Knowledge of the higher-level phylogenetic relationships of birds has grown substantially during the past two decades due to the application of genomic data. However, the nomenclature of higher-level taxa has not become more stable, due to the lack of regulation of taxon names above the level of superfamily by the ICZN, and the usage of rank-based nomenclature, which is not tied to clades in a phylogeny. Lack of regulation and the instability of rank-based nomenclature impede effective communication among systematists. We review support for higher-level avian clades using a set of 10 phylogenomic data sets, and identify clades that are supported by congruency of at least four of these. We provide formal definitions of the names of these clades based on the rules of the recently published PhyloCode. The names of 25 clades are here defined using minimum-crown-clade (n ​= ​23), minimum-clade (n ​= ​1) and maximum-crown-clade (n ​= ​1) definitions. Five new names are introduced here: Dinocrypturi, Pteroclimesites, Musophagotides, Phaethoquornithes and Pelecanes. We also review diagnostic apomorphies of the relevant clades, and identify known synonyms and homonyms. By establishing a formal link between higher-level taxon names and well-supported phylogenetic hypotheses, our phylogenetic definitions will provide a solid basis for the stabilization of avian higher-level nomenclature.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100027
JournalAvian Research
Publication statusPublished - 5 Apr 2022


  • Aves
  • Congruence
  • PhyloCode
  • Phylogenetic nomenclature
  • Phylogenomics
  • Rankless taxonomy

Cite this