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Suboscines


Suboscine birds represent one of the major divisions within the perching birds (Passeriformes). The group contains nearly 1,400 species distributed across 17 avian families. These families include the tyrant flycatchers (Tyrannidae), familiar to many North American birders, as well as a suite of primarily tropical families such as the ovenbirds and woodcreepers (Furnariidae), antbirds (Thamnophilidae), cotingas (Cotingidae), and pittas (Pittidae). In fact, although suboscines represent about 10 percent of all birds globally, they represent one-third of all birds in the bird-rich Neotropics. Suboscine birds vary widely in biology, occur in every terrestrial habitat, and have been considered a model for studies of evolutionary radiation. To explore suboscine birds further, click the button below to view the Birds of the World page for a randomly selected suboscine species:


Project



As part of a collaborative, NSF-funded project on suboscines, we are working to estimate a phylogeny of all currently recognized taxa (including subspecies) and distinct forms and use this to revise classification and reconstruct diversification in the group. The project builds on and expands the work reported in our 2020 paper (see a high-resolution pdf version of the existing phylogeny here). The resulting comprehensive phylogeny will serve as a key resource for researchers from diverse disciplines and conservationists working to identify and save distinct or evolutionarily important populations.

Classification



Our initial set of target species and subspecies is based on the 2022 version of the eBird/Clements checklist (also implemented in Birds of the World). To this, we are adding other undescribed taxa, distinct forms, and disjunct populations with the goal of sampling every distinct evolutionary unit within the group. If you are aware of populations or forms that look or sound different but are not recognized as subspecies by eBird/Clements, please feel free to let us know and we will consider adding them to the study!


Sampling



This project would be impossible without a strong collaborative effort across countries and institutions. Through this network, we have been able to identify samples for genetic analysis from nearly all remaining target taxa and populations. Most of these are high-quality samples in genetic resource collections. For a smaller number of taxa (426 as of December 2022) we have identified only low-quality sources of genetic material (e.g., old study skins). That list is here (pdf). If you are aware of higher-quality samples (e.g., blood samples, recently collected feathers, tissue samples) for any of these taxa/populations, feel free to contact us. We are entirely lacking sources of genetic material (even low-quality sources) for just a few taxa:

Taxon/Form Range Type Locality
Smithornis sharpei sharpei Bioko (Gulf of Guinea) Mt. Ysabel, 4000 feet, Fernando Po
Hydrornis soror douglasi Hainan I. (Seven Finger Mountains) Seven Finger Mountains, Hainan
Xiphocolaptes promeropirhynchus fortis Known from a single specimen of unknown location No locality
Xiphorhynchus ocellatus lineatocapilla Range uncertain: possibly along Río Orinoco in n Venezuela Angostura (now Ciudad Bolivar), Venezuela

Please let us know if you know of any sources for genetic data for these!


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