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The Evolution of Paradisaeidae:

The Birds of Paradise

What are the Birds of Paradise?
Paradisaeidae is a family of birds comprised of 42
species in 14 genera.
Majority are polygynous and sexually dimorphic
Extremely diverse in morphology and behavior.
Majority live on the tropical island of New Guinea
Confined to lowland and montane rainforests
Recent Work

Through DNA hybridisation and phylogenetic

analysis of mitochondrial DNA sequences, it was
revealed that the Paradisaeidae were descendent from
crow-like ancestors.
The crows, jays, and their allies (Corvidae) are the
closest relatives of the paradisaeid family.
Characters of Corvine genera shared with the Birds of
naked nestlings that soon become dark-skinned
powerful crow-like legs and feet
glossy and iridescent plumage
harsh vocalizations
behaviors such as the ability to walk at times.
Recent Work
The birds of paradise are
The monogamous
unornamented manucodines
form the base of the
paradisaeid phylogenetic tree.
The manucodes may have
split from the rest of the
paradisaeids 18-20 million
years ago.

Cracraft 2000
Manucodine Lineage

(5 spp.)

(1 spp.)
(2 spp.)

(5 spp.)
The Plumed Birds of Paradise
(4 spp.)

(1 spp.)

(3 spp.)

(1 spp.)
The Plumed Birds of Paradise cont.

(2 spp.)

(2 spp.)
The Plumed Birds of
Cicinnurus Paradise cont.
(3 spp.)

(1 spp.)

(1 spp.)

(7 spp.)
How Did They Evolve?
Why are some species
monogamous and some
Why so colorful?
Why such complex Possible Answers:
Relationship between
fruit supply and
evolution of polygamy
Few predators
Strong sexual selection
Requirements for a Polygynous Mating
System in Birds
Male freedom from nesting duties.
Solitary females must raise offspring without
An abundance of necessary resources.
Frugivory and Polygamy
Fruit and insects abound in New Guinea all year round.
Birds of paradise may be the most important vertebrate
seed dispersers on the island.
This is because of an absence of placental mammals.

Fruit foraging systems of monogamous and

polygynous birds of pardise differ.
Monogamous species have a diet consisting
mostly of figs.
Polygynous species observed eating mostly
capsular and berry fruits.
Extreme Sexual Selection

All polygynous species

exhibit court behavior.
Court behavior is based on
male self-advertisment.
Females are choosy.
Female choice results in
runaway selection.
Only a small proportion of
males in the population
All birds of paradise are descendent from a single
crow-like ancestor.
The monogamous and sexually monomorphic
manucodes are sister to the rest of the paradisaeids
The biogeography of New Guinea, a surplus of
available fruit, few predators, and strong sexual
selection result in these absurd exaggerations.
Works Cited
Beehler, B.M. 1983. Frugivory and Polygamy. The Auk. 100: 1-12.

Beehler, B.M. 1987. Birds of paradise and mating system theory - predictions and observations. Emu: 87:
Cracraft, J. and Prum, R.O. 1988. Patterns and Processes of diversification: speciation and historical
congruence in some neotropical birds. Evolution: 42: 603-620.
Cracraft, J. 1992. The species of the birds-of-paradise (Paradisaeidae): applying the phylogenetic species
concept to a complex pattern of diversification. Cladistics: 8: 1-43.

Cracraft, J. and Feinstien, J. 2000. What is not a bird of paradise? Molecular and morphological evidence
places Macgregoria in the Meliphagidae and the Cnemophilinae near the base of the corvoid
tree. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: 267: 233-241.

Frith, C. and Beehler, B.M. 1998. The Birds of Paradise. Oxford University Press: New York. Pp. 613.

Heads, M. 2002. Birds of paradise, vicariance biogeography and terrane tectonics in New Guinea.
Journal of Biogeography 29: 261283.
Works Cited
Helm-Bychowski, K and Cracraft, J. 1993. Recovering phylogenetic signal from DNA sequences:
relationships within the corvine assemblage (class aves) as inferred from complete
sequences of the mitochondrial DNA cytochrome-b gene. Molecular Biology and Evolution:
10: 1196-1214.
Pruett-Jones, S.G. and Pruett-Jones, M.A. Sexual selection through female choice in Lawes Parotia, a
lek-mating bird of paradise. Evolution. 44: 486-501
Pruett-Jones, S.G. and Pruett-Jones, M.A. Parasites and sexual selection in birds of paradise.
Integrative and Comparative Biology. 30: 287-298.
Sibley, C.G. and Alquist, J. 1985. The phylogeny and classification of the Australo-Papuan Passerine
birds. Emu: 85: 1-14.
Cuervo, J.J. and Moller, A.P. 1999. Ecology and evolution of extravagant feather ornaments.
Evolutionary Biology: 12: 986-998.