Phylogeny of major lineages of suboscines (Passeriformes) analysed by nuclear DNA sequence data

Martin Irestedt, Ulf S. Johansson, Thomas J. Parsons, Per G.P. Ericson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


Phylogenetic relationships among major groups of passeriform birds were studied by analyses of nucleotide sequence data from two nuclear genes, c-myc and RAG-1. The results corroborated both the monophyly of the order Passeriformes, and the major dichotomy into oscine and suboscine passerines previously suggested based on syringeal morphology and DNA-DNA hybridizations. The representatives of the Old World suboscines (families Eurylaimidae, Philepittidae and Pittidae) formed a monophyletic clade. The New World suboscines clustered into two clades. The first contained Conopophaga (Conopophagidae), Furnarius (Furnariidae), Lepidocolaptes (Dendrocolaptidae), Thamnophilus (Formicariidae), and Rhinocrypta (Rhinocryptidae). Previously, the monophyly of this group has been inferred from their possession of a unique, "tracheophone" syrinx, and from DNA-DNA hybridisation data. The second clade of New World suboscines includes Gubernetes and Muscivora (Tyrannidae), Phytotoma (Phytotomidae), Tityra (Cotingidae) and Pipra (Pipridae). This group of families have been considered monophyletic based on morphology (although ambiguously) and DNA-DNA hybridisation. The sister group relationship of Tityra and Phytotoma supports the previously supposed cotingid affinity of Phytotoma. Nuclear DNA data also unambiguously group the lyrebirds Menura with the oscines. The presented results from the analysis of nuclear DNA agree well with morphology and DNA-DNA hybridisation data. The precise age of the divergences studied herein are unknown but based on interpretations of the fossil record of passerine birds many of them might date back to the early Tertiary. The agreement between data from the nuclear DNA and other sources, along with the fact that neither of the studied genes showed sign of saturation, indicate the great potential of these two nuclear genes to resolve very old divergences in birds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-25
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Avian Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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