Temporal range: Late Cretaceous (Possible stem-loons date to this epoch) to present 70–present Ma
Shy albatross (Thalassarche cauta)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Clade: Ardeae
Clade: Aequornithes
Mayr, 2010

Aequornithes (from Latin aequor, expanse of water + Greek ornithes, birds), or core water birds[1] are defined as "the least inclusive clade containing Gaviidae and Phalacrocoracidae".[2] The monophyly of the group is currently supported by several molecular phylogenetic studies,[3][4][5] and is included in Passerea.

Aequornithes includes the clades Gaviiformes, Sphenisciformes, Procellariiformes, Ciconiiformes, Suliformes and Pelecaniformes. It does not include several unrelated groups of aquatic birds such as flamingos and grebes (Mirandornithes), shorebirds and auks (Charadriiformes), or the Anseriformes.

Based on a whole-genome analysis of the bird orders, the kagu and sunbittern (Eurypygiformes) and the three species of tropicbirds (Phaethontiformes) together styled as the Eurypgimorphae are the closest sister group of the Aequornithes in the clade Ardeae.[1]


Gaviiformes (loons)


Procellariiformes (albatross and petrels)

Sphenisciformes (penguins)

Ciconiiformes (storks)

Suliformes (boobies, cormorants, etc.)


Pelecanidae (pelicans)

Balaeniceps rex (shoebill)

Scopus umbretta (hamerkop)

Threskiornithidae (ibises and spoonbills)

Ardeidae (herons and egrets)

Cladogram based on Burleigh, J.G. et al.(2014)[6]


  1. 1 2 Jarvis, E.D. et al. (2014) Whole-genome analyses resolve early branches in the tree of life of modern birds. Science, 346(6215):1320-1331. DOI: 10.1126/science.1253451
  2. Mayr, G. (2010) Metaves, Mirandornithes, Strisores and other novelties – a critical review of the higher-level phylogeny of neornithine birds. J Zool Syst Evol Res.
  3. Hackett, S.J. et al. (2008) A Phylogenomic Study of Birds Reveals Their Evolutionary History. Science, 320, 1763.
  4. Yuri, T. (2013) Parsimony and model-based analyses of indels in avian nuclear genes reveal congruent and incongruent phylogenetic signals. Biology, 2:419–44.
  5. Kimball, R.T. et al. (2013) Identifying localized biases in large datasets: A case study using the Avian Tree of Life. Mol Phylogenet Evol. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2013.05.029
  6. Burleigh, J.G. et al.(2014) Building the avian tree of life using a large-scale, sparse supermatrix. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 84:53–63.

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