, Volume 133, Issue 4, pp 425–434 | Cite as

Comparative morphology of the radial carpal bone of neornithine birds and the phylogenetic significance of character variation

  • Gerald Mayr
Original Paper


The morphology of the radial carpal bone (os carpi radiale) of neornithine birds is for the first time evaluated in a comparative context. An unexpected morphological variation of this bone is documented, and characteristic derived morphologies are identified. One of these characterizes a subclade of Accipitridae, which includes the taxa Harpiinae, Circinae, Melieraxinae, Accipitrinae, Milvinae, Haliaeetinae, Buteoninae, and Aquilinae. Another derived morphology of the radial carpal is found in the Picocoraciae, the clade including Coraciiformes sensu stricto, Alcediniformes, Bucerotes, and Piciformes. This latter morphology is absent in Leptosomidae and Trogonidae and constitutes the first morphological apomorphy of Picocoraciae. A distinctive morphology of the radial carpal is further present in passeriform birds. Character variation of the radial carpal provides new data for the evaluation of conflicting phylogenetic hypotheses, and it is detailed that the morphology of this bone further contributes to a phylogenetic placement of controversial avian taxa in the fossil record.


Aves Osteology Os carpi radiale Phylogeny Accipitridae Picocoraciae 



I thank S. Tränkner for taking the photographs and A. Elzanowski for comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. Thoughtful comments by two anonymous reviewers improved the text.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ornithological SectionSenckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum FrankfurtFrankfurt am MainGermany

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