Proposal (578) to South American Classification Committee


Divide Aratinga into four genera


Five recent studies using DNA sequence data have found that the genus Aratinga, as defined since Peters (1937), is polyphyletic; see Remsen et al. (2013) for summary.  Although none on its own had extensive taxon-sampling, the combined datasets provide a reasonably complete view of the relationships among these parakeets, and the taxa still to be sampled are noncontroversial in terms of placement based on plumage and morphology.  As has often been the case, Ridgway’s (1916) classification is a much better match for the new data than that of Peters (1937).  Although Peters provided not a phrase of justification for his merger of genera into his broad Aratinga, his classification has remained largely unchanged for 70+ years.


         Rather than repeat the text in Remsen et al. (2013), please refer to that for details; if anyone needs a pdf, just let me know.  Basically, maintaining broadly defined Aratinga sensu Peters would require the merger of at least 9 other parrot genera, including Ara, into a single genus, which is of course untenable.  Also, monotypic Nandayus is embedded in Aratinga sensu stricto with strong support unless Aratinga weddellii is placed in a monotypic genus.


         The current SACC classification is:


Aratinga acuticaudata Blue-crowned Parakeet
Aratinga wagleri Scarlet-fronted Parakeet
Aratinga mitrata Mitred Parakeet
Aratinga erythrogenys Red-masked Parakeet
Aratinga leucophthalma White-eyed Parakeet
Aratinga solstitialis Sun Parakeet
Aratinga maculata Sulphur-breasted Parakeet
Aratinga jandaya Jandaya Parakeet
Aratinga auricapillus Golden-capped Parakeet
Aratinga weddellii Dusky-headed Parakeet
Aratinga aurea Peach-fronted Parakeet
Aratinga pertinax Brown-throated Parakeet
Aratinga cactorum Cactus Parakeet
Nandayus nenday Nanday Parakeet

         Our proposed new classification, including linear sequence derived from the trees, is given below. Gender changes force changes in variable endings in Psittacara and Thectocercus.


Thectocercus acuticaudatus Blue-crowned Parakeet

Psittacara wagleri Scarlet-fronted Parakeet
Psittacara mitratus Mitred Parakeet
Psittacara erythrogenys Red-masked Parakeet
Psittacara leucophthalmus White-eyed Parakeet

Aratinga weddellii Dusky-headed Parakeet
Aratinga nenday Nanday Parakeet
Aratinga solstitialis Sun Parakeet
Aratinga maculata Sulphur-breasted Parakeet
Aratinga jandaya Jandaya Parakeet
Aratinga auricapillus Golden-capped Parakeet

Eupsittula aurea Peach-fronted Parakeet
Eupsittula pertinax Brown-throated Parakeet
Eupsittula cactorum Cactus Parakeet


         If this proposal passes, we propose that the genera and species be listed consecutively and temporarily as per above until a second proposal on rearranging the sequence of New World parrot genera is produced.  Although passing of this proposal depends on the point that these species do not form a monophyletic group and thus should not be listed together, we think that the actual sequence of genera merits a full proposal.


DNA-based studies that find Aratinga as non-monophyletic (if anyone wants pdfs, just let me know):

Kirchman, J.J., Schirtzinger, E.E. & Wright, T.F. (2012) Phylogenetic relationships of the extinct Carolina Parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis) inferred from DNA sequence data. Auk, 129, 197-204.

Ribas, C.C., & Miyaki, C.Y. (2004) Molecular systematics in Aratinga parakeets: species limits and historical biogeography in the solstitialis group, and the systematic position of Nandayus nenday. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 30, 663-675.

Schirtzinger, E.E., Tavares, E.S., Gonzales, L.A., Eberhard, J.R., Miyaki, C.Y., Sanchez, J.J., Hernandez, A., Mueller, H., Graves, G.R., Fleischer, R.C., & Wright, T.F.  (2012) Multiple independent origins of mitochondrial control region duplications in the order Psittaciformes. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 64, 342-356.

Tavares, E.S, Baker, A.J., Pereira, S.L., & Miyaki, C.Y. (2006) Phylogenetic relationships and historical biogeography of Neotropical parrots (Psittaciformes: Psittacidae: Arini) inferred from mitochondrial and nuclear DNA Sequences. Systematic Biology, 55, 454-470.

Urantówka, A. D., Grabowski, K. A. & Strzała, T.  2012.  Complete mitochondrial genome of Blue-crowned Parakeet (Aratinga acuticaudata) -- phylogenetic position of the species among parrots group called conures.  Mitochondrial DNA, Early Online, 1–3.


Van Remsen and Adam Urantówka, May 2013





Comments from Stiles:  “YES. The genetic evidence that has accumulated is convincing that Aratinga is polyphyletic, and the four-way split proposed seems the most logical way to resolve this problem.”


Comments from Zimmer:  “YES.  The data seem pretty convincing that Aratinga is not monophyletic, and the proposed re-classification makes a lot more sense than our current one, not only on morphological grounds, but also when vocal characters are applied.”


Comments from Pacheco:  “YES.  Didactic work that shows how to accommodate the nomenclatural issues from phylogenetic data already published.”


Comments from Nores: “YES, The genetic evidence is convincing that Aratinga is not monophyletic, and the proposed classification seems the most logical. However, putting Nandayus nenday and Aratinga weddellii in monotypic genera also seems a possible option.”