This order (formerly considered a subset of Pelecaniformes) comprises four families:

  • Fregatidae (Frigatebirds)
  • Sulidae (Gannets, Boobies) 
  • Anhingidae (Anhingas)
  • Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants).

Timetree of Suliformes based on Patterson et al. (2011), Kennedy & Spencer (2014), Kennedy et al. (2018), and Kennedy et al. (2019). The distribution of each taxon is indicated by the colour-code used throughout this website (see Distribution code). Note, however, that the divergence times among species of the genus Fregata have not been studied yet. 


Baiao, P.C. and P.G. Parker (2012), Evolution of the melanocortin-1 receptor (MCIR) in Boobies and Gannets (Aves: Suliformes), J. Hered. 103(3), 322-

329. DOI: doi:10.1093/jhered/esr151. (pdf) 

Gibb, G.C., M. Kennedy and D. Penny (2013), Beyond phylogeny: pelecaniform and ciconiiform birds, and long-term niche stability, Mol. Phylogenet. Evol.

68, 229-238. DOI:

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Marks, K.J. Miglia, W.S. Moore, F.H. Sheldon, D.W. Steadman, C.C. Witt, and T. Yuri (2008), A phylogenetic study of birds reveals their evolutionary history, Science 320, 1763-1767. (abstract)

Hughes, J., M. Kennedy, K.P. Johnson, R.L. Palma and R.D.M. Page (2007), Multiple cophylogenetic analyses reveal frequent cospeciation between

pelecaniform birds and Pectinopygus lice, Syst. Biol. 56(2), 232-251. DOI: (pdf) 

Kennedy, M. and H.G. Spencer (2004), Phylogenies of the Frigatebirds (Fregatidae) and Tropicbirds (Phaethontidae), two divergent groups of the traditional

order Pelecaniformes, inferred from mitochondrial DNA sequences, Mol. Phylogenet. Evol. 31, 31-38. DOI: 10.1016/j.ympev.2003.07.007. (abstract) 

Kennedy, M. and H.G. Spencer (2014), Classification of the cormorants of the world, Mol. Phylogenet. Evol. 79, 249-257. DOI: (abstract) 

Kennedy, M., S.S. Seneviratne, N.J. Rawlence, S. Ratnajake and H.G. Spencer (2019), The phylogenetic placement of the enigmatic Indian Cormorant,

Phalacrocorax fuscicollis (Phalacrocoracidae), Mol. Phylogenet. Evol. 130, 227-232. DOI: (pdf)

Kennedy, M., S.S. Seneviratne, U.K. Mendis and H.G. Spencer (2019), Sorting out the Snakebirds: The species status, phylogeny and biogeography of the

Darters (Aves: Anhingidae), J. Zool. Syst. Evol. Res. 00,1-8. DOI: 10.1111/jzs.12299. (abstract) 

Kuhl, H., C. Frankl-Vilches, A. Bakker, G. Mayr, G. Nikolaus, S.T. Boerno, S. Klages, B. Timmermann, and M. Gahr (2021), An unbiased molecular approach

using 3'UTRs resolves the avian family-level tree of life, Mol. Biol. Evol. 38(1), 108-127. DOI: 10.1093/molbev/msaa191. (pdf)

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58(2),181-191. DOI: (abstract)

Prum, R.O., J.S. Berv, A. Dornburg, D.J. Field, J.P. Townsend, E.M. Lemmon, and A.R. Lemmon (2015), A comprehensive phylogeny of birds (Aves) using

targeted next-generation DNA sequencing, Nature 526, 569-57. (abstract)