Joel L. Cracraft

Lamont Curator, Department of Ornithology, Division of Vertebrate Zoology

Principal Investigator, Institute for Comparative Genomics

Professor, Richard Gilder Graduate School

Photo of Joel Cracraft


  • Columbia University, Ph.D, 1969
  • Lousiana State University, M.S., 1966
  • University of Oklahoma, B.S., 1964

Research Interests

Dr. Cracraft’s research on the systematics and evolution of birds, speciation analysis, and biogeography are all components of his interests in understanding how biotas originate and change 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. A second major research project involving his research group is contributing to building the avian Tree of Life.  The focus of this research is on the phylogenetic history of the songbirds, which comprise about 60% of all living birds.  A related research effort is being put into the analysis of speciation and biogeography of various birds.  He and his students have undertaken research on numerous groups of birds in most areas of the world, particularly Latin America and Australasia. Dr. Cracraft has also undertaken research contributing to conservation biology. He and coworkers have published several papers on species concepts and their implications for conservation, and have conducted a genetic study of species limits in tigers. He has also written extensively on biodiversity issues.


Division of Vertebrate Zoology

Department of Ornithology

Institute of Comparative Genomics

Richard Gilder Graduate School


Braun, E.L., J. Cracraft, and P. Houde. 2019. Resolving the avian tree of life from top to bottom: The promise and potential boundaries of the phylogenomic era. In: R.H.S. Kraus (editor). Avian genomics in ecology and evolution: 151–210.Springer.

Ferreira, M., A.M. Fernandes, A. Aleixo, A. Antonelli, U. Olsson, J. Bates, J. Cracraft, and C.C. Ribas. 2018. Evidence for mtDNA capture in the jacamar Galbula leucogastra/chalcothorax species-complex and insights on the evolution of white-sand ecosystems in the Amazon basin. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 129: 149–157.

Musher, L.J., M. Ferreira, A.L. Auerbach, J. McKay, and J. Cracraft. 2019. Why is Amazonia a “source” of biodiversity? Climate-mediated dispersal and synchronous speciation across the Andes in an avian group (Tityrinae). Proceedings of the Royal Society B 286(1900). [DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2018.2343]

Musser, G.M., and J. Cracraft. 2019. A new morphological dataset reveals a novel relationship for the Adzebill of New Zealand (Aptornis) and provides a foundation for total evidence Neoavian phylogenetics. American Museum Novitates 3927: 1–69.

Oliveros, C.H., D.J. Field, D.T. Ksepka, F.K. Barker, A. Aleixo, M.J Anderson, P. Alström, B.W. Benz, E.L. Braun, M. Braun, G.A. Bravo, R. Brumfield, R.T. Chesser, S. Claramunt, J. Cracraft, A.M. Cuervo, E.P. Derryberry, T.C. Glenn, M.G. Harvey, P. Hosner, L. Joseph, R.T. Kimball, A.L. Mack, C.M. Miskelly, A.T. Peterson, M. Robbins, F.H. Sheldon, L.F. Silveira, B.T. Smith, N.D. White, R.G. Moyle and B. Faircloth. 2019. Earth history and the passerine superradiation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 116(16): 7916–7925. [DOI:10.1073/pnas.1813206116]

Oliveros, C.H., M.J. Andersen, P.A. Hosner, W.M. Mauck, F.H. Sheldon, J. Cracraft, and R.G. Moyle. 2019. Rapid Laurasian diversification of a pantropical bird family during the Oligocene-Miocene transition. Ibis. [DOI: 10.1111/ibi.12707]

Pupim, F.N., A.O. Sawakuchi, R.P. Almeida, C.C. Ribas, A.K. Kern, G.A. Hartmann, C.M. Chiessi, L.N. Tamura, T.D. Mineli, J.F. Savian, C.H. Grohmann, D.J. Bertassoli Jr., A.G. Stern, F.W. Cruz, and J. Cracraft. 2019. Chronology of Terra Firme formation in Amazonian lowlands reveals a dynamic Quaternary landscape. Quaternary Science Reviews 210: 154–163.

Ribas, C. C., A. C. R. Nogueira, A. Aleixo, C. Y. Miyaki and J. Cracraft. 2012. A paleobiogeographic model for biotic diversification within Amazonia over the past three million years. Proc. Roy. Soc. Lond. 279B:681-689. 

Derryberry, E. P., S. Claramunt, G. Derryberry, R. T. Chesser, J. Cracraft, A. Aleixo, J. Pérez-Emán, J. V. Remsen, Jr., and R. T. Brumfield. 2011. Lineage diversification and morphological evolution in a large-scale continental radiation: the Neotropical ovenbirds and woodcreepers (Aves: Furnariidae). Evolution 65:2973-2986. 

Cracraft, J. 2011. Animal Evolution all Over the Place, or What is Integrative Biology? Review of: Animal evolution: genomes, fossils and trees (M. Telford and D. T. J. Littlewood, eds.). Evolution, Education and Outreach. 4:542-543. 

Cracraft, J. 2011. Beyond bird-like dinosaurs: the emerging evolutionary history of modern birds. Pp. vii-x (Forward) in Living Dinosaurs: The Evolutionary History of Modern Birds (G. Dyke and G. Kaiser, eds.).J. Wiley & Sons, West Sussex, UK. 

Cracraft, J. 2011. Review of " Perspectives in Animal Phylogeny and Evolution" by Alessandro Minelli (Oxford University Press, Oxford. 2009). Quarterly Review of Biology 86:346-347. 

Teaching Experience

Faculty Appointments

  • Adjunct Professor of Biology, The City University of New York,2006–present
  • Adjunct Professor, Department of Ecology, Evolution & Environmental Biology, Columbia University, 1997–present
  • Adjunct Professor, CUNY, 1992–present
  • Assistant, Associate, Full Professor, University of Illinois, Chicago, 1970–1992


Courses Taught

  • Evolution (co-professor), Richard Gilder Graduate School, 2009–present
  • Biogeographic Analysis, Richard Gilder Graduate School, 2011
  • Systematics and Biogeography (co-professor), Richard Gilder Graduate School, 2008
  • Biodiversity and Biological Diversification, CUNY
  • Topics in African Conservation, CUNY
  • Systematics, Columbia University (Fall 2004)
  • Biodiversity Policy: Topics in African Conservation, Columbia University
  • Biogeography, Columbia University
  • Diversity and Diversification, Columbia University 

Graduate Advisees

  • Andre de Carvalho, Richard Gilder Graduate School, co-advisor
  • Eugenia Gold, Richard Gilder Graduate School, co-advisor
  • Sushma Reddy
  • Alejandro Espinosa
  • Pamela Beresford
  • Ana Luz Porzecanski
  • Snorri Sigurdsson

Graduate Committees

  • Zach Baldwin, Richard Gilder Graduate School
  • Edward Stanley, Richard Gilder Graduate School
  • Pedro Peloso, Richard Gilder Graduate School
  • Sushma Reddy, Columbia University (chair)