Phylogeny and biogeography of the core babblers (aves: Timaliidae)

Robert G. Moyle, Michael J. Andersen, Carl H. Oliveros, Frank D. Steinheimer, Sushma Reddy

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111 Scopus citations


The avian family Timaliidae is a species rich and morphologically diverse component of African and Asian tropical forests. The morphological diversity within the family has attracted interest from ecologists and evolutionary biologists, but systematists have long suspected that this diversity might also mislead taxonomy, and recent molecular phylogenetic work has supported this hypothesis. We produced and analyzed a data set of 6 genes and almost 300 individuals to assess the evolutionary history of the family. Although phylogenetic analysis required extensive adjustment of program settings, we ultimately produced a well-resolved phylogeny for the family. The resulting phylogeny provided strong support for major subclades within the family but extensive paraphyly of genera. Only 3 genera represented by more than 3 species were monophyletic. Biogeographic reconstruction indicated a mainland Asian origin for the family and most major clades. Colonization of Africa, Sundaland, and the Philippines occurred relatively late in the family's history and was mostly unidirectional. Several putative babbler genera, such as Robsonius, Malia, Leonardina, and Micromacronus are only distantly related to the Timaliidae.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)631-651
Number of pages21
JournalSystematic Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2012
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
FUNDING This work was supported by the National Science Foundation [DEB-0743576 and DEB-0743491 to R.G.M., DEB-0962078 to S.R.].


  • Babbler
  • Timaliidae
  • biogeography
  • convergence
  • parameter interaction


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