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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2008 Jul;48(1):150-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2008.04.016. Epub 2008 May 20.

DNA evidence shows vocalizations to be a better indicator of taxonomic limits than plumage patterns in Zimmerius tyrant-flycatchers.

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Department of Genetics, University of Melbourne, Parkville Campus, Vic 3052, Australia.


We investigated mitochondrial and nuclear DNA in the small tyrant-flycatcher genus Zimmerius (Tyrannidae) and show that molecular data are in strong disagreement with morphology-based taxonomy, but in good concordance with vocal characters. Our molecular data identified two independent cases of well-supported polyphyletic species arrangements within this genus that indicate the following taxonomic changes: elevation of Z. acer and Z. albigularis to species level, separation of northern populations of Z. chrysops as a species and inclusion of southern populations of Z. chrysops into Z. viridiflavus. Although polyphyly has rarely been encountered in bird systematics it has previously been shown for two other tyrannid genera and suggests that tyrannid taxonomy may be poorly resolved, presumably as a consequence of the conserved plumage patterns observed in many tyrannid genera. Our study suggests that vocalizations can be a better indicator of taxonomic limits than plumage pattern in tyrannids.

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