The superfamily Certhioidea is distributed on four continents and while comprising relatively few species, includes forms as diverse as creepers, nuthatches, gnatcatchers, and wrens. Previous attempts to infer the phylogeny of this lineage have focused on its higher-level relationships, consequently undersampling the New World wrens. This study reports the first nearly genus-level sampling of certhioids, based on concatenated and species tree analyses of 8520 bases of DNA sequence data from six gene regions. These analyses, while failing to completely resolve basal certhioid relationships, corroborate the monophyly of a diverse New World clade of gnatcatchers, gnatwrens, and wrens, and significantly improve our understanding of wren relationships. The inferred relationships among certhioids and wrens support an Old World origin for these lineages, with dispersal of the New World clade in the mid-Miocene, suggesting expansion and early diversification of the lineage through North America. This scenario suggests a minimum of six independent dispersal events into South America in this lineage, at least some likely to have been made prior to the Pliocene.
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I thank the curators and collections managers at the American Museum of Natural History, the Biodiversity Institute (University of Kansas), the Burke Museum (University of Washington), the Museo de Zoología “Alfonso L. Herrera” (Universidad Nacional Autonoma de México), the Field Museum, and LSU Museum of Zoology for loans of material in their care. This paper benefitted from comments by Shanta Hejmadi, Tyler Imfeld, and Michael Wells. This work was supported by a grant from the NSF Biological Sciences program, DEB-1541312.