A molecular phylogeny of anseriformes based on mitochondrial DNA analysis.
To study the phylogenetic relationships among Anseriformes, sequences for the complete mitochondrial control region (CR) were determined from 45 waterfowl representing 24 genera, i.e., half of the existing genera. To confirm the results based on CR analysis we also analyzed representative species based on two mitochondrial protein-coding genes, cytochrome b (cytb) and NADH dehydrogenase subunit 2 (ND2). These data allowed us to construct a robust phylogeny of the Anseriformes and to compare it with existing phylogenies based on morphological or molecular data. Chauna and Dendrocygna were identified as early offshoots of the Anseriformes. All the remaining taxa fell into two clades that correspond to the two subfamilies Anatinae and Anserinae. Within Anserinae Branta and Anser cluster together, whereas Coscoroba, Cygnus, and Cereopsis form a relatively weak clade with Cygnus diverging first. Five clades are clearly recognizable among Anatinae: (i) the Anatini with Anas and Lophonetta; (ii) the Aythyini with Aythya and Netta; (iii) the Cairinini with Cairina and Aix; (iv) the Mergini with Mergus, Bucephala, Melanitta, Callonetta, Somateria, and Clangula, and (v) the Tadornini with Tadorna, Chloephaga, and Alopochen. The Tadornini diverged early on from the Anatinae; then the Mergini and a large group that comprises the Anatini, Aythyini, Cairinini, and two isolated genera, Chenonetta and Marmaronetta, diverged. The phylogeny obtained with the control region appears more robust than the one obtained with mitochondrial protein-coding genes such as ND2 and cytb. This suggests that the CR is a powerful tool for bird phylogeny, not only at a small scale (i.e., relationships between species) but also at the family level. Whereas morphological analysis effectively resolved the split between Anatinae and Anserinae and the existence of some of the clades, the precise composition of the clades are different when morphological and molecular data are compared.