Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 159, Issue 2, pp 367–377 | Cite as

A systematic reappraisal of the Rufous Potoo Nyctibius bracteatus (Nyctibiidae) and description of a new genus

  • Thiago V. V. CostaEmail author
  • Bret M. Whitney
  • Michael J. Braun
  • Noor D. White
  • Luís Fábio Silveira
  • Nigel Cleere
Original Article


The Rufous Potoo (Nyctibius bracteatus Gould, 1846) is the smallest member of the family Nyctibiidae, which comprises seven species endemic to the Neotropical region. Morphologically, it is highly distinct from its congeners, not only in its smaller size, but also in possessing a strange marking on its iris and having entirely rufous plumage, which is lightly vermiculated and has pronounced white spots on the wing coverts, breast, belly, flanks and undertail coverts. Molecular studies have shown extraordinarily high levels of genetic divergence amongst potoo species, and a recent genome-scale molecular phylogeny of potoo species placed N. bracteatus as sister to all other potoos with high confidence. Similarly, osteological data reveal that the species has several unique and plesiomorphic characters. Therefore, its distinctive morphology, in combination with unique behavioral traits, and its recurrent placement as the earliest branching terminal in phylogenetic treatments of the family, convinced us to erect a new genus for the species, Phyllaemulor.


Nyctibiidae Molecular phylogeny Genetic divergence Osteology Plesiomorphy 


Eine systematische Neubewertung des Tropfentagschläfers Nyctibius bracteatus (Nyctibiidae) und die Beschreibung einer neuen Gattung

Der Tropfentagschläfer (Nyctibius bracteatus Gould, 1846) ist das kleinste Mitglied der Familie der Tagschläfer (Nyctibiidae), welche sieben für die Neotropis endemische Arten umfasst. Morphologisch unterscheidet er sich stark von den anderen Arten der Gattung, nicht nur durch seine geringere Größe sondern auch durch das Vorhandensein einer eigenartigen Musterung der Iris sowie durch sein gänzlich rötlichbraunes Gefieder, das eine leichte Wellenzeichnung und deutliche weiße Flecken auf Flügeldecken, Brust, Bauch, Flanken und Unterschwanzdecken aufweist. Molekulare Studien zeigen einen ungewöhnlich hohen Grad genetischer Divergenz bei den Tagschläferarten und eine neuere molekulare Phylogenie auf Genomebene stuft N. bracteatus mit hoher Konfidenz als basal zu allen übrigen Tagschläfern ein. Parallel dazu belegen osteologische Daten, dass die Art verschiedene einzigartige und plesiomorphe Merkmale besitzt. Diese charakteristische Morphologie in Verbindung mit einzigartigen Verhaltensmerkmalen und der derzeitigen Platzierung auf dem basalen Zweig der Familie haben uns daher dazu bewogen, für diese Art eine neue Gattung einzuführen, Phyllaemulor.



We are grateful to the following curators and collection managers for allowing us to study the specimens under their care: J. Van Remsen, Jr. and Steve Cardiff (LSUMNS); Helen James and Chris Milensky (NMNH); John Bates, Mary Hennen and Ben Marks (FMNH); Joel Cracraft, Paul Sweet, Peter Capainolo, Merle Okada and Lydia Garetano (AMNH); Stephen P. Rogers (CMNH); Scott Edwards and Jeremiah Trimble (MCZ); Nathan Rice (ANSP); Robert Prys-Jones, Mark Adams and Joanne Cooper (NHMUK); Marie Portas and Eric Pasquet (MNHN); Sylke Frahnert (ZMB); Gerald Mayr (SMF); and Alexandre Aleixo and Fátima Lima (MPEG). For the loan of important specimens we thank: Carla Cicero and Rauri Bowie (MVZ); Diarmaid O’Foighil and Janet Hinshaw (UMMZ); David Steadman and Andrew Kratter (FLMNH); A. Towsend Peterson and Mark Robbins (KUMNH). T. V. V. C. is indebted to the CAPES foundation for the fellowship conceded under the PDSE program (proc. BEX 5360/317), to the Frank Chapman Foundation (AMNH) for the Collection Study Grant and to the Field Museum of Natural History for the Visiting Scholarship. We are also indebted to Francine Brondex for allowing the use of her photo of P. bracteatus; to Mario Cohn-Haft and Normand David for the important discussions on this subject; and one anonymous reviewer for the comments on the submitted manuscript. T. V. V. C., B. M. W., M. J. B., L. F. S. and N. C. conceived the idea, design, experiment (supervised research, formulated question or the hypothesis). T. V. V. C., B. M. W., N. D. W. and M. J. B. performed the experiments (collected data, conducted the research). T. V. V. C., B. M. W., M. J. B., N. D. W., L. F. S. and N. C. wrote the paper (or substantially edited the paper). Collection permits in Brazil were obtained from Sistema de Autorização e Informação em Biodiversidade/Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical statement

This article does not include any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors, and all procedures performed in studies involving animals were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institution or practice at which the studies were conducted.

Supplementary material

10336_2017_1511_MOESM1_ESM.doc (14 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 14 kb)

Supplementary material 2 (MP4 300106 kb)


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Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Seção de AvesMuseu de Zoologia da Universidade de São PauloSão PauloBrazil
  2. 2.Museum of Natural ScienceLouisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA
  3. 3.Department of Vertebrate Zoology, National Museum of Natural HistorySmithsonian InstitutionWashingtonUSA
  4. 4.Behavior, Ecology, Evolution and Systematics Graduate ProgramUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  5. 5.The Bird Group, Department of Life SciencesThe Natural History MuseumTringUK

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