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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

New insights into family relationships within the avian superfamily Sylvioidea (Passeriformes) based on seven molecular markers

Silke Fregin1*, Martin Haase1, Urban Olsson2 and Per Alström34

Author Affiliations

1 Vogelwarte Hiddensee, Zoological Institute and Museum, Ernst Moritz Arndt University of Greifswald, Greifswald, 17489, Germany

2 Department of Zoology, Systematics and Biodiversity, University of Gothenburg, Box 463, Göteborg, SE-405 30, Sweden

3 Key Laboratory of Zoological Systematics and Evolution, Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 1 Beichen West Road, Beijing, Chaoyang District, 100101, Peoples Republic of China

4 Swedish Species Information Centre, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Box 7007, Uppsala, SE-750 07, Sweden

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2012, 12:157  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-12-157

Published: 25 August 2012

Abstract

Background

The circumscription of the avian superfamily Sylvioidea is a matter of long ongoing debate. While the overall inclusiveness has now been mostly agreed on and 20 families recognised, the phylogenetic relationships among the families are largely unknown. We here present a phylogenetic hypothesis for Sylvioidea based on one mitochondrial and six nuclear markers, in total ~6.3 kbp, for 79 ingroup species representing all currently recognised families and some species with uncertain affinities, making this the most comprehensive analysis of this taxon.

Results

The resolution, especially of the deeper nodes, is much improved compared to previous studies. However, many relationships among families remain uncertain and are in need of verification. Most families themselves are very well supported based on the total data set and also by indels. Our data do not support the inclusion of Hylia in Cettiidae, but do not strongly reject a close relationship with Cettiidae either. The genera Scotocerca and Erythrocercus are closely related to Cettiidae, but separated by relatively long internodes. The families Paridae, Remizidae and Stenostiridae clustered among the outgroup taxa and not within Sylvioidea.

Conclusions

Although the phylogenetic position of Hylia is uncertain, we tentatively support the recognition of the family Hyliidae Bannerman, 1923 for this genus and Pholidornis. We propose new family names for the genera Scotocerca and Erythrocercus, Scotocercidae and Erythrocercidae, respectively, rather than including these in Cettiidae, and we formally propose the name Macrosphenidae, which has been in informal use for some time. We recommend that Paridae, Remizidae and Stenostiridae are not included in Sylvioidea. We also briefly discuss the problems of providing a morphological diagnosis when proposing a new family-group name (or genus-group name) based on a clade.

Keywords:
Phylogeny; Passerines; Taxonomic revision; International Code of Zoological Nomenclature