Journal of the Graduate Research Center


Ornithologists agree that any classification of birds that attempts to reflect relationship and phylogeny presents many uncertainties. This is particularly true in regard to the Order Passeriformes, which includes more living species than all other orders combined, and of which but few fossil forms are known. Within this order the greatest taxonomic problem is posed by those species assigned to the Suborder Passeres (Oscines), the true songbirds. Opinions vary widely as to the relationships of the families in this suborder and, therefore, schemes of classification. This is because these birds form a morphologically homogeneous group, and because their slight anatomical differences have been variously interpreted by different workers. Although studies of physiology, life history, and behavior patterns (in addition to the more conventional studies of morphology) have yielded useful and important data, there remains no clear understanding of the relationships of many groups; and even when data from new and little explored fields are obtained, there will still be arguments in this regard. This fact ought not to discourage, however, the search for other kinds of information that might be of some use in establishing a natural classification. This paper includes the results of a study of the relationships of fifteen oscine families (Table 1) which involves comparison of saline-soluble tissue proteins by serological techniques. This work was made possible by a research grant, NSF-G2904, from the National Science Foundation. Serological techniques have been used in the study of problems of animal relationships (with varying degrees of success) over a period of some 60 years; but not extensively in ornithology. What has been done has been briefly reviewed in an earlier paper (Stallcup, 1954) and is not repeated here.

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