A multi-gene phylogeny disentangles the chat-flycatcher complex (Aves: Muscicapidae)

Authors

  • Dario Zuccon,

  • Per G. P. Ericson


Corresponding author: Dario Zuccon, Molecular Systematics Laboratory, Swedish Museum of Natural History, Box 50007, SE-104 05 Stockholm, Sweden. Email: dario.zuccon@libero.it
Per G. P. Ericson, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Swedish Museum of Natural History, Box 50007, SE-104 05 Stockholm, Sweden. E-mail: per.ericson@nrm.se

Abstract

Zuccon, D. & Ericson, P. G. P. (2010). A multi-gene phylogeny disentangles the chat-flycatcher complex (Aves: Muscicapidae).—Zoologica Scripta, 39, 213–224.

We reconstructed the first well-sampled phylogenetic hypothesis in the chat-flycatcher complex combining nuclear and mitochondrial sequences. The dichotomy between chats-terrestrial feeders and flycatchers-aerial feeders does not reflect monophyletic groups. The flycatching behaviour and morphological adaptations to aerial feeding (short tarsi, broad bill, rictal bristles) evolved independently from chat ancestors in three different lineages. The genera Alethe, Brachypteryx, and Myiophonus are nested within the Muscicapidae radiation and their morphological and behavioural similarities with the true thrushes Turdidae are presumably the result of convergence. The postulated close relationships among Erithacus, Luscinia and Tarsiger cannot be confirmed. Erithacus is part of the African forest robin assemblage (Cichladusa, Cossypha, Pogonocichla, Pseudalethe, Sheppardia, Stiphrornis), while Luscinia and Tarsiger belong to a large, mainly Asian radiation. Enicurus belongs to the same Asian clade and it does not deserve the recognition as a distinct subfamily or tribe. We found good support also for an assemblage of chats adapted to arid habitats (Monticola, Oenanthe, Thamnolaea, Myrmecocichla, Pentholaea, Cercomela, Saxicola, Campicoloides, Pinarochroa) and a redstart clade (Phoenicurus, Chaimarrornis and Rhyacornis). Five genera (Muscicapa, Copsychus, Thamnolaea, Luscinia and Ficedula) are polyphyletic and in need of taxonomic revision.

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