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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2006 Nov;41(2):333-44. Epub 2006 May 19.

Nuclear and mitochondrial sequence data reveal the major lineages of starlings, mynas and related taxa.

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Dipartimento di Biologia Animale e dell'Uomo, Università di Torino, Via Accademia Albertina 13, 10123 Torino, Italy.


We investigated the phylogenetic relationships among the major lineages of the avian family Sturnidae and their placement within the Muscicapoidea clade using two nuclear (RAG-1 and myoglobin) and one mitochondrial gene (ND2). Among Muscicapoidea, we recovered three clades corresponding to the families Cinclidae, Muscicapidae and Sturnidae (sensu [Sibley, C.G., Monroe Jr., B.L., 1990. Distribution and Taxonomy of Birds of the World. Yale University Press, New Haven, CT]). Within the sturnoid lineage Mimini and Sturnini are sister groups, with Buphagus basal to them. We identified three major lineages of starlings: the Philippine endemic genus Rhabdornis, an Oriental-Australasian clade (genera Scissirostrum, Gracula, Mino, Ampeliceps, Sarcops, Aplonis), and an Afrotropical-Palaearctic clade (all African taxa, Sturnus and Acridotheres). We discuss the biogeographic implications of our findings and suggest an Asiatic origin for this family. The congruence between the age of major clades, estimated by NPRS, and palaeoclimatic data present evidence for the role of climatic changes in shaping present day distribution of the group.

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