Discovery of a relict lineage and monotypic family of passerine birds

Per Alström, Daniel M. Hooper, Yang Liu, Urban Olsson, Dhananjai Mohan, Magnus Gelang, Hung Le Manh, Jian Zhao, Fumin Lei, Trevor D. Price

Abstract

Analysis of one of the most comprehensive datasets to date of the largest passerine bird clade, Passerida, identified 10 primary well-supported lineages corresponding to Sylvioidea, Muscicapoidea, Certhioidea, Passeroidea, the ‘bombycillids’ (here proposed to be recognized as Bombycilloidea), Paridae/Remizidae (proposed to be recognized as Paroidea), Stenostiridae, Hyliotidae, Regulidae (proposed to be recognized as Reguloidea) and spotted wren-babbler Spelaeornis formosus. The latter was found on a single branch in a strongly supported clade with Muscicapoidea, Certhioidea and Bombycilloidea, although the relationships among these were unresolved. We conclude that the spotted wren-babbler represents a relict basal lineage within Passerida with no close extant relatives, and we support the already used name Elachura formosa and propose the new family name Elachuridae for this single species.

  • Received December 16, 2013.
  • Accepted February 7, 2014.
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