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F. Keith Barker

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F. Keith Barker
Associate Professor


Ph.D., University of Chicago, 1999


I am interested in how evolutionary history has shaped modern organismal diversity. How much influence does past history have on character evolution? Does the original distribution of a clade influence its standing diversity? Do patterns of character evolution constrain or promote lineage diversification? All of these questions can be addressed using historical methods.

My research focus is on patterns and processes of evolution in a major vertebrate radiation—the passerine birds. This order comprises over half of modern avian species diversity, and exhibits remarkable adaptive diversity. This diversity lends power to comparative tests of evolutionary hypotheses, but also poses significant challenges. For instance, the comparative approach depends on knowledge of phylogenetic relationships—but until recently, much of passerine phylogeny remained unknown. Collection and analysis of large multigene datasets is helping to rapidly advance our phylogenetic knowledge, and this is a major focus of research in my lab. These data sets offer significant analytical challenges, and incorporating the most rigorous and appropriate methods is an important part of this research.

Selected Publications

Barker, F.K., K.J. Burns, J. Klicka, S.M. Lanyon, and I.J. Lovette. 2015. New insights into New World biogeography: an integrated view from the phylogeny of blackbirds, cardinals, sparrows, tanagers, warblers, and allies. The Auk: Ornithological Advances 132: 333-348.

Jarvis, E.D., S. Mirarab, A.J. Aberer, B. Li, P. Houde, C. Li, S.Y.W. Ho, B.C. Faircloth, B. Nabholz, J.T. Howard, A. Suh, C.C. Weber, R.R. da Fonseca, J. Li, F. Zhang, H. Li, L. Zhou, N. Narula, L. Liu, G. Ganapathy, B. Boussau, Md.S. Bayzid, V. Zavidovych, S. Subramanian, T. Gabaldón, S. Capella-Gutiérrez, J. Huerta-Cepas, B. Rekepalli, K. Munch, M. Schierup, B. Lindow, W.C. Warren, D. Ray, R.E. Green, M. Bruford, X. Zhan, A. Dixon, S. Li, N. Li, Y. Huang, E.P. Derryberry, M.F. Bertelsen, F. Sheldon, R.T. Brumfield, C. Mello, P.V. Lovell, M. Wirthlin, J.A. Samaniego, A.M.V. Velazquez, A. Alfaro-Núñez, P.F. Campos, T. Sicheritz-Ponten, A. Pas, T. Bailey, P. Scofield, M. Bunce, D. Lambert, Q. Zhou, P. Perelman, A.C. Driskell, G. Ruby, B. Shapiro, Z. Xiong, Y. Zeng, S. Liu, Z. Li, B. Liu, K. Wu, J. Xiao, X. Yinqi, Q. Zheng, Y. Zhang, H. Yang, J. Wang, L. Smeds, F.E. Rheindt, M. Braun, J. Fjeldsa, L. Orlando, F.K. Barker, K.A. Jønsson, W. Johnson, K.-P. Koepfli, S. O'Brien, D. Haussler, O.A. Ryder, C. Rahbek, E. Willerslev, G.R. Graves, T.C. Glenn, J. McCormack, D. Burt, H. Ellegren, P. Alström, S. Edwards, A. Stamatakis, D.P. Mindell, J. Cracraft, E.L. Braun, T. Warnow, W. Jun, M.T.P. Gilbert, G. Zhang. 2014. Whole genome analyses resolve early branches in the tree of life of modern birds. Science 346(6215): 1320-1331

Winger, B.M., R.H. Ree, and F.K. Barker. 2014. Temperate origins of long-distance seasonal migration in New World birds. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 111(33): 12115-12120.

Dufort, M.J. and F.K. Barker. 2013. Range dynamics, rather than convergent selection, explain the mosaic distribution of red-winged blackbird phenotypes. Ecology and Evolution 3(15): 4851-5126.

Barker, F.K., K.J. Burns, J. Klicka, S.M. Lanyon, and I.J. Lovette. 2013. Going to extremes: contrasting rates of diversification in a recent radiation of New World passerine birds. Systematic Biology 62(2): 298-320.

Barker, F.K., K.J. Burns, J. Klicka, I.J. Lovette, S.M. Lanyon. In press. Going to extremes: contrasting rates of diversification in a recent radiation of New World passerine birds. Systematic Biology.

Powell, A.F.L.A., F.K. Barker, S.M. Lanyon. 2013. Empirical evaluation of partitioning schemes for phylogenetic analyses of mitogenomic data: an avian case study. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 66: 69-79.

Barker, F.K., M.K. Benesh, A.J. Vandergon, and S.M. Lanyon. 2012. Contrasting evolutionary dynamics and information content of the avian mitochondrial control region and ND2 gene. PLoS ONE 7(10): e46403.

Mann, N.I., K.A. Dingess, F.K. Barker, J.A. Graves, and P.J.B. Slater. 2009. A comparative study of song form and duetting in neotropical Thryothorus wrens. Behaviour 146(1): 1-43.

Barker, F.K., A.J. Vandergon*, and S.M. Lanyon. In press. Assessment of species limits among yellow-breasted meadowlarks (Sturnella) using mitochondrial and sex-linked markers. The Auk.

Barker, F.K. 2007. Avifaunal interchange across the Panamanian Isthmus: insights from Campylorhynchus wrens. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 90: 687-702.

Mann, N.I., F.K. Barker, J.A. Graves, K.A. Dingess-Mann, and P.J.B. Slater. 2006. Molecular data delineate four genera of “Thryothorus” wrens. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 40: 750-759.

Beresford, P., F.K. Barker, P.G. Ryan, and T.M. Crowe. 2005. African endemics span the tree of songbirds (Passeri): Molecular systematics of several evolutionary ‘enigmas’. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B 272: 849-858.

Barker, F.K., A. Cibois, P. Schikler, J. Feinstein, and J. Cracraft. 2004. Phylogeny and diversification of the largest avian radiation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 101(30): 11040-11045.

Barker, F.K. 2004. Monophyly and relationships of wrens (Aves: Troglodytidae): a congruence analysis of heterogeneous mitochondrial and nuclear DNA sequence data. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 32(2): 486-504.

Barker, F.K., G.F. Barrowclough, and J. G. Groth. 2002. A phylogenetic hypothesis for passerine birds: taxonomic and biogeographic implications of an analysis of nuclear DNA sequence data. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B 269: 295-308.

Additional Links

Personal Web Page:

Curator of Genetic Resources, Bell Museum of Natural History
Phone Number
612-624-2737 Fax: 612-624-6777
Email Address

100 Ecology
1987 Upper Buford Circle
St. Paul, MN 55108