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Vol. 67, No. 1, 2006
Issue release date: December 2005
Brain Behav Evol 2006;67:53–68

The Comparative Morphology of the Cerebellum in Caprimulgiform Birds: Evolutionary and Functional Implications

Iwaniuk A.N. · Hurd P.L. · Wylie D.R.W.
aDepartment of Psychology, bCentre for Neuroscience, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

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Interspecific variation in the structure of the avian cerebellum is poorly understood. We present the first comparison of cerebellar morphology within the avian order Caprimulgiformes. Using a range of qualitative descriptions and quantitative measurements of cerebellar morphology we compared caprimulgiform birds with hummingbirds and swifts (Apodiformes) and owls (Strigiformes), two groups that are putative sister taxa to the Caprimulgiformes. Our results demonstrate that the owlet-nightjars (Aegothelidae), nightjars (Caprimulgidae) and potoos (Nyctibiidae) are more similar to apodiforms than they are to other taxa. All of these species have a reduced anterior lobe characterized by particularly small folia II and III and a relatively large posterior lobe. The frogmouths (Podargidae) possess a markedly different cerebellum that is more similar to that of owls than any of the caprimulgiform or apodiform birds. The monotypic oilbird (Steatornis caripensis, Steatornithidae) possesses a cerebellum with some nightjar-like features and some owl-like features, but overall it too resembles an owl more than a nightjar. This cerebellar diversity within the order Caprimulgiformes has significant implications for understanding the evolutionary relationships within the order, how the avian cerebellum has evolved and whether interspecific differences in cerebellar morphology reflect behavior.

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