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Keywords:

  • Adaptive radiation;
  • diversification;
  • Furnariidae;
  • Neotropics;
  • phenotypic diversity;
  • variance

The study of continental adaptive radiations has lagged behind research on their island counterparts in part because the mere identification of adaptive radiations is more challenging at continental scales. Here, I demonstrate a new method based on simulations for discovering clades that show exceptionally high phenotypic diversity. The method does not require a phylogeny but accounts for differences in age and species richness among clades and incorporates effects of the phylogenetic structure of data. In addition, I developed a new multivariate measure of phenotypic diversity, which has the advantage over other measures of disparity in that it takes covariation into account. I applied these methods to a clade of endemic Neotropical suboscine passerines, within which the family Furnariidae has been considered an adaptive radiation. I found that the families Thamnophilidae, Furnariidae, and Dendrocolaptidae have experienced a higher rate of cladogenesis than have other clades. Although Thamnophilidae is exceptionally diverse in body size, only Furnariidae and Dendrocolaptidae are exceptionally diverse in shape. The combination of high rates of cladogenesis and high morphometric diversity in traits related to feeding and locomotion suggest that the clade Furnariidae-Dendrocolaptidae represent an authentic continental adaptive radiation.