DNA sequence support for a close phylogenetic relationship between some storks and New World vultures.
Nucleotide sequences from the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene were used to address a controversial suggestion that New World vultures are related more closely to storks than to Old World vultures. Phylogenetic analyses of 1-kb sequences from 18 relevant avian species indicate that the similarities in morphology and behavior between New World and Old World vultures probably manifest convergent adaptations associated with carrion-feeding, rather than propinquity of descent. Direct sequence evidence for a close phylogenetic alliance between at least some New World vultures and storks lends support to conclusions reached previously from DNA.DNA hybridization methods and detailed morphology-based appraisals, and it illustrates how mistaken assumptions of homology for organismal adaptations can compromise biological classifications. However, there was a lack of significant resolution for most other branches in the cytochrome b phylogenetic reconstructions. This irresolution is most likely attributable to a close temporal clustering of nodes, rather than to ceiling effects (mutational saturation) producing an inappropriate window of resolution for the cytochrome b sequences.