Mitochondrial and nuclear DNA phylogenies reveal a complex evolutionary history in the Australasian robins (Passeriformes: Petroicidae)

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Christidis, L, Irestedt, M, Rowe, D, Boles, WE & Norman, JA 2011, 'Mitochondrial and nuclear DNA phylogenies reveal a complex evolutionary history in the Australasian robins (Passeriformes: Petroicidae)', Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, vol. 61, no. 3, pp. 726-738.

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The Australasian robins (Petroicidae) comprise a relatively homogeneous group of small to medium-sized insectivorous birds. Their center of diversity is Australia and New Guinea (40 species) but seven species have managed to colonize geographically distant islands such as Tanimbar, New Britain, New Zealand, New Caledonia, Norfolk Island, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Fiji and Samoa. To resolve the evolutionary relationships within the Petroicidae, we here present the results of a phylogenetic analysis of sequence data from two mitochondrial genes (ND2, CO1) and one nuclear intron (β-Fibrinogen intron 5) for all 14 genera and 40 of the 46 currently recognized species. All phylogenetic analyses identified six primary lineages, treated here as subfamilies, within the Petroicidae: (1) Eopsaltriinae comprising Eopsaltria (excluding E. flaviventris), Tregellasia, Peneothello, Melanodryas, Poecilodryas and Heteromyias; (2) Drymodinae comprising Drymodes; (3) Microecinae comprising Microeca, Monachella and Eopsaltria flaviventris; (4) Petroicinae comprising Petroica and Eugerygone; (5) Pachycephalopsinae comprising Pachycephalopsis; and (6) Amalocichlinae comprising Amalocichla. The genera Eopsaltria, Microeca, Peneothello and Poecilodryas were found to be paraphyletic. Based on assessments of phylogenetic branching patterns and/or DNA divergence it also was apparent that Eopsaltriaaustralis, Tregellasialeucops, Melanodryascucullata, Heteromyiasalbispecularis, Drymodessupercilious and Microecaflavigaster may each comprise more than one species. The Petroicidae display a complex biogeographical history involving repeated radiations both within, and across Australia and New Guinea. It appears that dispersal into smaller islands such as New Britain, Tanimbar and the South Pacific has only been undertaken by species with a “flycatcher” body form.