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Keywords:

  • Adaptive radiation;
  • cytochrome b;
  • Madagascar;
  • molecular phylogeny;
  • Pycnonotidae;
  • Sylviidae;
  • Timaliidae

Abstract.— The bird fauna of Madagascar includes a high proportion of endemic species, particularly among passerine birds (Aves: Passeriformes). The endemic genera of Malagasy songbirds are not allied obviously with any African or Asiatic taxa, and their affinities have been debated since the birds first were described. We used mitochondrial sequence data to estimate the relationships of 13 species of endemic Malagasy songbirds, 17 additional songbird species, and one species of suboscine passerine. In our optimal trees, nine of the 13 Malagasy species form a clade, although these birds currently are classified in three different families. In all optimal trees, the sister to this endemic clade is a group of Old World warblers including both African and Malagasy birds. The endemic Malagasy songbird clade rivals other island radiations, including the vangas of Madagascar and the finches of the Galapagos, in ecological diversity.