Curator and Curator-in-Charge (Ornithology)
Ph.D., Columbia University, 1969 "Functional Morphology of Locomotion in Birds"
Dr. Cracraft's research on the higher-level systematics of birds, speciation analysis, and biogeography all feed into his interests on deciphering how biotas originate and evolve over time, and how one understands patterns and processes of diversification. A major research effort in his laboratory involves a detailed description of one of the most spectacular examples of "adaptive radiation": the birds of paradise (Paradisaeidae) of New Guinea and surrounding areas. Using molecular and morphological data he and his coworkers are beginning to uncover major lineages within the family as well as relationships among species within bird of paradise genera. These will provide an evolutionary and biogeographic framework to analyze how species have arisen in the group, as well as their patterns of morphological, ecological, and behavioral diversification. Tests will also be done to determine which factors drive diversification.
A second major research project is an analysis of one of the largest avian radiations, that of the corvidan songbirds, which include birds of paradise, crows, nearly all Australian endemic songbirds, and other groups such as vireos and shrikes. This is a very large group of more than 25 families of birds that arose and diversified in Australasia, with several lineages reaching Eurasia, Africa, and North America. The group is very old and is so diverse that relationships within the group have been difficult to resolve. Dr. Cracraft and coworkers are making substantial progress in deciphering this radiation using mtDNA and nuclear sequences in combination with morphological characters.
Dr. Cracraft's research group has also undertaken research contributing to conservation biology. They have published several papers on concepts and their implications for conservation, and are conducting a genetic study that examines species limits in tigers and applies this knowledge to their conservation.
Recent Significant Publications
Cracraft, J. "Avian Evolution, Gondwana Biogeography, and the Cretaceous-Tertiary Mass Extinction Event." Proceedings, Yale Society 268B (2001): 459-469.
Cracraft, J., and J. Feinstein. "What is Not a Bird of Paradise? Molecular and Morphological Evidence Places Macgregoria in the Meliphagidae and the Cnemophilinae Near the Base of the Corvoid Tree." Proceedings, Royal Society 67B (2000): 33-241.
Cracraft, J. "Species Concepts in Theoretical and Applied Biology: A Systematic Debate with Consequences." In Species Concepts: A Debate, ed. Q. D. Wheeler and R. Meier, 3-14. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000.
Cracraft, J., and F. Grifo, ed. The Living Planet in Crisis: Biodiversity Science and Policy. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.
Cracraft, J. "Regional and Global Patterns of Biodiversity Loss and Conservation Capacity: Predicting Future Trends and Identifying Needs." In The Living Planet in Crisis: Biodiversity Science and Policy, ed. J. Cracraft and F. Grifo, 139-172. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.
Raven, R. H., and J. Cracraft. "Seeing the World as It Really Is: Global Stability and Environmental Change." In The Living Planet in Crisis: Biodiversity Science and Policy, ed. J. Cracraft and F. Grifo, 287-298. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.
Lee, K., J. Feinstein, and J. Cracraft. "Phylogenetic Relationships of the Ratite Birds: Resolving Conflicts Between Molecular and Morphological Data Sets." In Avian Molecular Evolution and Systematics, ed. D. P. Mindell, 173-211. New York: Academic Press, 1997.
Cracraft, J. "Species Concepts in Systematics and Conservation Biology: An Ornithological Viewpoint." In Species: The Units of Biodiversity, ed. M. F. Claridge, H. A. Dawah, and M. R. Wilson, 325-339. London: Chapman and Hall, 1997.
Editorial and Adjunct Appointments
Other Professional Honors
Postdoctoral Fellows, Graduate Students, and Scientific Assistants