The molecular phylogeny of 11 Old World and 5 New World vultures was inferred from nucleotide sequences of the mitochondrial cytochrome b (cyt b) gene. According to this analysis carrion-feeding has evolved independently at least three times during evolution: 1.) In the New World vultures, which are clearly separated from vultures of the family Accipitridae; 2.) in the Neophron-Gypaetus clade which is positioned at the base of the Accipitrid tree and 3.) in the Gyps-Aegypius-complex which encloses the largest group of Old World vultures. Thus the genetic data clearly show that the carrion-feeding lifestyles and associated morphologies shared by New and Old World vultures are rather based on convergence than on close genetic relatedness. Employing the cyt b sequences of 12 other members of the Falconiformes and 10 members of the Ciconiiformes (sensu Sibley and Monroe, 1990) the phylogenetic relationship between the three clades of vultures and these other taxa was assessed. New World Vultures appear to share distant ancestry with storks but a close relationship is unlikely.
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