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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2004 May;31(2):486-504.

Monophyly and relationships of wrens (Aves: Troglodytidae): a congruence analysis of heterogeneous mitochondrial and nuclear DNA sequence data.

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Bell Museum of Natural History, University of Minnesota, 100 Ecology, 1987 Upper Buford Circle, St. Paul, MN 55108, USA.


The wrens (Aves: Troglodytidae) are a group of primarily New World insectivorous birds, the monophyly of which has long been recognized, but whose intergeneric relationships are essentially unknown. In order to test the monophyly of the group, and to attempt to resolve relationships among genera within it, sequences from the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene and the fourth intron of the nuclear beta-fibrinogen gene were obtained from nearly all genera of wrens, from their relatives as suggested by traditional taxonomy and DNA-DNA hybridization analyses, and from additional passerines. Maximum likelihood analysis of the two data sets yielded maximal congruence between independently derived estimates of relationship, outperforming a variety of weighted parsimony methods. Hierarchical likelihood ratio tests indicated that the two gene regions differed significantly in every estimated parameter of sequence evolution, and combined analysis of the two data sets was accomplished using a heterogeneous-model Bayesian approach. Independent and simultaneous analyses of both data sets supported monophyly of the wrens (excluding one recently added member, the monotypic genus Donacobius) and a sister-group relationship between wrens and the gnatcatchers (Polioptila). Additionally, strong support was found for paraphyly of the genus Thryothorus, and for a sister-group relationship between the genera Cistothorus and Troglodytes. Analyses of these data failed to resolve basal relationships within wrens, possibly due to ambiguity in rooting with a distant, species-poor outgroup. Analysis of the combined data for wrens alone yielded results which were largely congruent with relationships inferred using the complete data set, with the benefit of stronger support for relationships within the group. However, alternative rootings of this ingroup tree were weakly supported by nucleotide substitution data. Insertion-deletion events suggest that the genus Salpinctes may be sister to all other wrens.

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