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Molecular Phylogenetics of Neotropical Seedeaters and Seed-finches

By Jack Eitniear

Sporophila torqueola Photo J.Eitniear
A recent paper in Ornitologia Neotropical by Nicholas A. Mason and Kevin J. Burns suggests merging the genera Oryzoborus and Dolospingus into a broadly defined Sporophila.
The acceptance of some scientific studies have a profound impact on the ornithological community (both scientific and birding components). For significant changes to be accepted in the relationships between various genera generally a paper has to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.

A recent paper in the current issue of Ornitologia Neotropical is one such case. The genera Sporophila, Oryzoborus, and Dolospingus comprise a group of small-bodied, thick-billed oscines that are widely distributed in open and semi-open habitats from southern Texas to Argentina. In a paper by Nicholas A. Mason and Kevin J. Burns "Molecular Phylogenetics of Neotropical Seedeaters and Seed-finches (Sporophila, Oryzoborus, Dolospingus)" the authors perform a phylogenetic analysis of the genera based on 2184 bp of mitrochondrial DNA.

Attached File  ON 24(2) 139-155 NEW.pdf   1.65MB   479 downloads

Their findings, if accepted, would require the revision of many Latin American birding guides! The concluding proposal of the authors is that "We [they] recommend a taxonomic revision wherein Oryzoborus and Dolospingus are merged into a broadly defined Sporophila".

This change is currently being considered by the AOU South American Classification Committee as proposal 604. To comment refer to http://www.museum.ls...SACCprop604.htm. The findings are likely to be controversial especially given "..we note that bill size and shape, as well as body size , can be extremely labile in passerines" hence they have placed less weight on these characters than many of the previous authors.

Back issues of the journal Ornitologia Neotropical as well as membership information can be obtained at www.neotropicalornithology.org.
  • Nick Mason likes this


Thanks for the write-up, Jack!