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Science News

December 24, 2011

Robert Prys-Jones (Zoology) is co-author on a new paper on Indian Ocean Parrot biogeography and evolution being published in Molecular Phylogenetics & Evolution. It is the latest in a line of research papers deriving from Robert’s on-going Indian Ocean island research programme, and comprises a comprehensive overview of extant and extinct parrot evolution on western Indian Ocean islands. 



Psittacula eupatria


Parrot diversity around the Indian Ocean is high, with many possible geological, ecological and geographical explanations.This paper examines DNA data from modern and extinct parrots and suggests that the Indian Ocean islands acted as stepping stones in  the radiation of the Old-World parrots, and that past sea-level changes may help to explain distributions and  differences in speciation. A molecular phylogeny shows complex colonisation of Africa, Asia  and the Indian Ocean islands from Australasia via multiple routes, and  of island populations ‘seeding’ continents.

A second paper develops a comprehensive phylogeny of the finches, a large and familiar bird family within which many genus-level relationships have previously been unclear, and is the first product of a co-operation with Dr Per Ericson, Director of Science at the Swedish Museum of Natural History, and is further co-authored by Dr Pamela Rasmussen (Michigan State University Museum), a Scientific Associate of the NHM. The similarity of plumage of finches, and of feeding habits, has in the past given misleading impressions of related groups.  DNA from nuclei and mitochondria give a much clearer and more reliable picture in this paper.


  • Kundu, S., Jones, C.G., Prys-Jones, R.P. & Groombridge, J.J. The evolution of the Indian Ocean parrots (Psittaciformes): extinction, adaptive radiation and eustacy. Molecular Phylogenetics & Evolution, Volume 62, Issue 1, January 2012, Pages 296-305.
  • Zuccon, D., Prys-Jones, R.P., Rasmussen, P.C. & Ericson, P.G.P. The phylogenetic relationships and generic limits of finches (Fringillidae). Molecular Phylogenetics & Evolution, in press,