Northern gannet (Morus bassanus)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Infraclass: Neognathae
Superorder: Aequornithes
Order: Suliformes


The order Suliformes (dubbed "Phalacrocoraciformes" by Christidis & Boles 2008) is a proposed order by the International Ornithologist's Union.[1] In regard to the recent evidence that the traditional Pelecaniformes is polyphyletic,[2] it has been suggested that the group be split up to reflect the true evolutionary relationships.

Systematics and evolution

Of the families in Pelecaniformes, only Pelecanidae, Balaenicipitidae, and Scopidae remain. The tropicbird family Phaethontidae has since been moved to their own order Phaethontiformes. Genetic analysis seems to show that the Pelecaniformes is actually closely related to the Ardeidae and Threskiornithidae. As for the Suliformes, they seem to be only distantly related to the current Pelecaniformes.[3] According to the Hackett Taxonomy, loons, penguins, storks, and as well as Suliformes and Pelecaniformes, all seem to have evolved from a common ancestor. The proposed waterbird superorder has been suggested.[4]

In their landmark 2008 work Systematics and Taxonomy of Australian Birds, Australian ornithologists Les Christidis and Walter E. Boles coined the name Phalacrocoraciformes for the group due to the much greater number of species of cormorants (Phalacrocoracidae) over boobies and gannets (Sulidae), after the removal of pelicans to Ciconiiformes.[5] However, this has not been taken up elsewhere.

In 1994, American ornithologist Walter J. Bock wrote that the name Suloidea had been used consistently as a term for a superfamily containing the two families, so therefore "Sulidae" and not "Phalacrocoracidae" should take priority in any arrangement containing the two genera.[6]

In 2010, the AOU adopted the term Suliformes for the taxon.[7] The IOC followed in 2011.[8]

In 1994, Martyn Kennedy and colleagues constructed a behavioural data set, with the resulting tree showing a high level of congruence with existing phylogenies based on genetics or morphology. It showed the darters as sister group to the cormorants and shags, with the gannets and boobies, then pelicans, then frigatebirds and lastly tropicbirds as progressively earlier offshoots.[9]


Little cormorant Phalacrocorax niger


  1. ^
  2. ^ Mayr (2003)
  3. ^ Kennedy et al. (2000), Mayr (2005)
  4. ^ A Phylogenomic Study of Birds Reveals Their Evolutionary History. Shannon J. Hackett, et al" Science 320, 1763 (2008)
  5. ^ Christidis, Les; Boles, Walter E. (2008). Systematics and Taxonomy of Australian Birds. Canberra: CSIRO Publishing. p. 50.  
  6. ^ Bock, Walter J. (1994). "History and nomenclature of avian family-group names". Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 222: 1-281 [166-67]. If Sula and Phalacrocorax are included in the same family-level taxon (e.g. superfamily), then Sulidae Reichenbach, 1849 (1836) (Sula Brisson, 1760) has priority in preference to Phalacrocoracidae Reichenbach, 1849-50 (1836) (Phalacrocorax Brisson, 1760), because the name Suloidea has been consistently used in avian classification as a superfamily name. Phalacrocoracidae Reichenbach, 1849-50 (1836) can still be used for any taxon containing Phalacrocorax but not Sula. 
  7. ^ R. Terry Chesser, Richard C. Banks, F. Keith Barker, Carla Cicero, Jon L. Dunn, Andrew W. Kratter, Irby J. Lovette, Pamela C. Rasmussen, J. V. Remsen Jr., James D. Rising, Douglas F. Stotz and Kevin Winker (July 2010). "Fifty-First Supplement to the American Ornithologists' Union Check-List of North American Birds". The Auk 127 (3): 726–44.  
  8. ^ "Taxonomy Version 2". IOC World Bird List: Version 3.1. 2011. Retrieved 15 July 2012. 
  9. ^ Kennedy, Martyn; Spencer, Hamish G.; Gray, Russell D. (1996). "Hop, step and gape: do the social displays of the Pelecaniformes reflect phylogeny?". Animal Behaviour 51: 273–91.