A comprehensive multilocus phylogeny for the wood-warblers and a revised classification of the Parulidae (Aves)

Irby J. Lovette, Jorge L. Pérez-Emán, John P. Sullivan, Richard C. Banks, Isabella Fiorentino, Sergio Córdoba-Córdoba, María Echeverry-Galvis, F. Keith Barker, Kevin J. Burns, John Klicka, Scott M. Lanyon, Eldredge Bermingham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


The birds in the family Parulidae-commonly termed the New World warblers or wood-warblers-are a classic model radiation for studies of ecological and behavioral differentiation. Although the monophyly of a 'core' wood-warbler clade is well established, no phylogenetic hypothesis for this group has included a full sampling of wood-warbler species diversity. We used parsimony, maximum likelihood, and Bayesian methods to reconstruct relationships among all genera and nearly all wood-warbler species, based on a matrix of mitochondrial DNA (5840 nucleotides) and nuclear DNA (6 loci, 4602 nucleotides) characters. The resulting phylogenetic hypotheses provide a highly congruent picture of wood-warbler relationships, and indicate that the traditional generic classification of these birds recognizes many non-monophyletic groups. We recommend a revised taxonomy in which each of 14 genera (Seiurus, Helmitheros, Mniotilta, Limnothlypis, Protonotaria, Parkesia, Vermivora, Oreothlypis, Geothlypis, Setophaga, Myioborus, Cardellina, Basileuterus, Myiothlypis) corresponds to a well-supported clade; these nomenclatural changes also involve subsuming a number of well-known, traditional wood-warbler genera (Catharopeza, Dendroica, Ergaticus, Euthlypis, Leucopeza, Oporornis, Parula, Phaeothlypis, Wilsonia). We provide a summary phylogenetic hypothesis that will be broadly applicable to investigations of the historical biogeography, processes of diversification, and evolution of trait variation in this well studied avian group.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)753-770
Number of pages18
JournalMolecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the many field scientists who collected and archived specimens later used for this study, and for the loan of those materials from the associated museums and collections-based institutions, including the Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Sciences, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, Field Museum of Natural History, American Museum of Natural History, University of Washington Burke Museum, Cornell University Museum of Vertebrates, National Museum of Natural History—Smithsonian Institution (USA), University of Las Vegas Barrick Museum of Natural History, Instituto Alexander von Humboldt , Colección Ornitológica Phelps, University of Kansas Natural History Museum, and University of Minnesota Bell Museum of Natural History. For laboratory assistance we thank Amanda Talaba and Laura Stenzler, and for comments on the manuscript we thank Ben Winger. For access to their high-performance computing cluster we thank the Computational Biology Service Unit of Cornell University, which is supported in part by the Microsoft Corporation. This research was supported in part by grants NSF-DEB-0315218, NSF-DEB-0515981, and NSF-DEB-0814277.


  • Classification
  • Parulidae
  • Phylogeny
  • Systematics
  • Wood-warbler


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