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Multilocus phylogenetic analysis of Old World chats and flycatchers reveals extensive paraphyly at family, subfamily and genus level (Aves: Muscicapidae).

Journal article
Authors George Sangster
Per Alström
Emma Forsmark
Urban Olsson
Published in Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
Volume 57
Issue 1
Pages 380-392
ISSN 1055-7903
Publication year 2010
Published at Department of Zoology
Pages 380-392
Language en
Subject categories Microbiology


The chats and flycatchers (Muscicapidae) represent an assemblage of 275 species in 48 genera. Defining natural groups within this assemblage has been challenging because of its high diversity and a paucity of phylogenetically informative morphological characters. We assessed the phylogenetic relationships of 124 species and 34 genera of Muscicapidae, and 20 species of Turdidae, using molecular sequence data from one mitochondrial gene and three nuclear loci, in total 3240 bp. Bayesian and maximum likelihood analyses yielded a well-resolved tree in which nearly all basal nodes were strongly supported. The traditionally defined Muscicapidae, Muscicapinae and Saxicolinae were paraphyletic. Four major clades are recognized in Muscicapidae: Muscicapinae, Niltavinae (new family-group name), Erithacinae and Saxicolinae. Interesting relationships recovered by this analysis include: (i) a clade comprising the ‘blue’ flycatcher genera Niltava, Cyornis, Cyanoptila and Eumyias and some species of Rhinomyias; (ii) the position of Erithacus rubecula in a clade of otherwise exclusively African species; (iii) a close relationship between the shortwing Heinrichia calligyna and the flycatcher Rhinomyias insignis; (iv) a sister-relationship between forktails Enicurus and whistling thrushes Myophonus; and (v) a sister relationship of Ficedula and the ‘chats’ Monticola, Phoenicurus, Saxicola and Oenanthe. A high number of traditionally defined genera was found to be paraphyletic or polyphyletic.

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