The phylogenetic position of some Philippine "babblers" spans the muscicapoid and sylvioid bird radiations

Carl H. Oliveros, Sushma Reddy, Robert G. Moyle

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23 Scopus citations


The Philippines is characterized by a high rate of endemism among its terrestrial vertebrates, including enigmatic genera with uncertain affinities. In a recent comprehensive study of the avian family of Timaliidae (babblers), it was shown that three putative babbler genera endemic to the Philippines (Leonardina, Robsonius, and Micromacronus) are distant relatives of Timaliidae. With additional DNA sequences from new samples and data from Genbank, we attempt to determine the phylogenetic affinities of these three genera and examine the resulting implications for biogeography and avian endemism in the Philippines. Well-supported phylogenies recover the three genera in three different families spanning the sylvioid and muscicapoid radiations of passerine birds. Leonardina groups with Muscicapidae and is most closely related to other isolated montane endemic species in Southeast Asia. Robsonius appears to be an early offshoot of Locustellidae. Micromacronus belongs in Cisticolidae, but its position in the family is unresolved. Contrary to implications based on traditional taxonomy, the Philippine archipelago appears to have played a minor role in the diversification of babblers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)799-804
Number of pages6
JournalMolecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 2012
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank D. Willard and J. Bates (FMNH), J. Dean and curators (USNM), and P. Sweet and J. Cracraft (AMNH) for providing tissue and toe-pad samples. P. Hosner, C. Krajewski, and an anonymous reviewer provided useful comments and edits that improved the manuscript. We thank the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau for facilitating research and export permits in the Philippines. This study was conducted with financial support from the National Science Foundation (DEB 0743576 and DEB 0743491 to R.G.M. and DEB 0962078 to S.R.).


  • Biogeography
  • Leonardina
  • Malia
  • Micromacronus
  • Robsonius
  • Timaliidae


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