We obtained the first DNA sequences from the extinct Carolina Parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis) and used these data to infer the phylogenetic relationships of this iconic North American parrot. We compared our sequences of the mitochondrial COI and ND2 genes obtained from multiple Carolina Parakeet museum specimens to homologous sequences from individuals representing 43 species in 28 genera of Neotropical parrots (Tribe Arini), and four species from more distantly related Old World species of the Order Psittaciformes. Bayesian and maximum likelihood analyses place C. carolinensis on a long branch within a well-supported clade of parakeets that also includes Aratinga solstitialis, A. auricapillus, and Nandayus nenday. These species of Aratinga (but not N. nenday) closely resemble C. carolinensis in the presence of yellow and orange head plumage and blue feathers in the wings. Our data do not support a close relationship with the Monk Parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus), with which the Carolina Parakeet shares fully feathered ceres, a putative adaptation for cold tolerance that appears to have evolved independently in both species. Given the high level of sequence divergence from all sampled species, we recommend continued recognition of the monotypic genus Conuropsis. Taxonomic revision of the highly polyphyletic genus Aratinga is needed.
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Vol. 129 • No. 2