The Evolutionary Ecology of a Highly Diverse Lineage of Birds (Telluraves)
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Why do lineages diversify? How do individuals adapt to heterogeneous, changing environments? These seemingly disparate questions are linked across large evolutionary radiations. Improvements in constructing large phylogenies, and methodological advances in the integration of character data with evolutionary trees, permit new insights into the evolution of biodiversity. Birds are one of the most diverse extant terrestrial vertebrate groups, with a current estimate of approximately 10,600 species. They have been studied extensively, from their phylogenetic relationships to the individual characteristics of species. The richness of data is dispersed, but when brought together using new analytical tools it enables new insights into the evolution of birds. This thesis focuses on a highly diverse, monophyletic lineage, recently ascribed as Telluraves (the ‘land birds’, or ‘earth birds’). I have assembled a variety trait data and used newly developed approaches to describe the evolution of the group across a range of taxonomic and temporal scales.