Emu Emu Society
Journal of BirdLife Australia

The phylogenetic affinities of the parrot taxa Agapornis, Loriculus and Melopsittacus (Aves: Psittaciformes): hypotarsal morphology supports the results of molecular analyses

Gerald Mayr

Forschungsinstitut Senckenberg, Sektion Ornithologie, Senckenberganlage 25, D-60325 Frankfurt a.M., Germany. Email: Gerald.Mayr@senckenberg.de

Emu 108(1) 23-27 https://doi.org/10.1071/MU07059
Submitted: 8 October 2007  Accepted: 31 January 2008   Published: 25 February 2008


The interrelationships between the currently recognised subtaxa of parrots (Psittaciformes) are poorly understood and even monophyly of some is not well established. A recent phylogenetic analysis of nuclear gene sequences strongly supports a previously unrecognised clade including Agapornis (lovebirds), Melopsittacus (Budgerigar), Cyclopsittini (fig-parrots) and Loriini (lories). In the present study it is shown that these taxa also share a unique derived morphology of the hypotarsus, which further occurs in Loriculus (hanging-parrots) and Micropsitta (pygmy-parrots). It is hypothesised that Agapornis, Loriculus, Micropsitta, Cyclopsittini, Melopsittacus and Loriini form a clade for which the name Loricoloriinae is proposed. The presence of an ossified arcus parahyalis on the hyoid bone further suggests a clade including Cyclopsittini, Melopsittacus and Loriini, which also gained support from analysis of molecular data.


This study benefited from earlier discussions with J. Bosch on the homology of hypotarsal canals in parrots. I further thank two anonymous referees for helpful comments which improved the manuscript. One of the referees kindly provided a scan of a complete Pezoporus hypotarsus which complemented my observations based on a damaged specimen.


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