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Ancestral ranges concealed by local extinctions: the historical biogeography of the African and Asian Turdoides babblers and allies (Aves: Passeriformes)
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.
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(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]


To infer the historical biogeography of the genus Turdoides and allies, and to investigate the impact of the geological history of the Arabian Peninsula on the biogeographic interactions between Africa and Asia.


Terrestrial Africa and Asia, with focus on the Middle East.


A five-loci molecular phylogeny was estimated by Bayesian inference and by maximum likelihood. Divergence times were approximated by Bayesian inference under a relaxed clock model, and non-parametrically by asmoothing algorithm between sister paths (PATHD8). Historical biogeography was reconstructed by maximum likelihood approach under the DEC-model, and by the parsimony-based Bayes-DIVA on the trees sampled from the target distribution from the Bayesian inference of the phylogeny.


The clade comprising Turdoides and its close relatives originated in the end of the Miocene, and initially the Middle East region played an important role. The clade radiated into two subclades, one mainly distributed in Africa, and one distributed in southern Asia, the Middle East and northern and eastern Africa.

Main conclusions

We propose that local extinctions may have played a key role, in combination with dispersals and vicariance, in forming the present distribution pattern of the study group. The Middle East has been an important and dynamic area for the early evolution of the investigated babblers. Further, we conclude that constraints on biogeographical inference have stronger impact on the analysis than does the biogeographical model implied in the analysis.

Keyword [en]
Arabian Peninsula, event-based biogeography, extinction, Middle East, Miocene, Pliocene, Tethys sea, Timaliidae, Turdoides
National Category
Biological Systematics
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-71320OAI: diva2:484606
Available from: 2012-01-27 Created: 2012-01-27 Last updated: 2014-10-13Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Babblers, Biogeography and Bayesian Reasoning
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Babblers, Biogeography and Bayesian Reasoning
2012 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In this thesis, I try to proceed one step further towards an understanding of the biogeographic processes forming the distribution patterns of organisms that we see today. Babblers and warblers are diverse groups of passerines that are phylogenetically intermixed with other groups in the superfamily Sylvioidea.

First, the gross phylogeny of the babblers and associated groups was estimated. Five major lineages of a well-supported monophyletic babbler radiation were recovered, and we proposed a new classification at family and subfamily level. Further, the genus Pnoepyga was excluded from Timaliidae, and we proposed the new family Pnoepygidae fam. nov.

Second, the systematic position was investigated for the Albertine Rift taxon Hemitesia neumanni, which was found to be nested within the almost entirely Asian family Cettidae, and possible biogeographical scenarios were discussed. We concluded that the most plausible explanation involved late Miocene vicariance in combination with local extinctions.

Third, the historical biogeography of a Leiothrichinae subclade, the Turdoides babblers and allies, was inferred. We concluded that the Middle East region probably played an important role in the early history of this clade, followed by local extinctions in this region.

Fourth, a Bayesian method to reconstruct the historical biogeography under an event-based model was proposed, where the total biogeographic histories are sampled from its posterior probability distribution using Markov chains.

In conclusion, I believe that, especially with more sophisticated methods available, we will see an increasing number of studies inferring biogeographic histories that lead to distribution patterns built up by a combination of dispersals and vicariance, but where these distributions have been extensively reshaped, or litterally demolished, by local extinctions. Therefore, my answer to the frequently asked question dispersal or vicariance? is both, but not the least: extinctions.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Zoology, Stockholm University, 2012. 15 p.
Africa, Asia, Bayesian inference, biogeography, Cettidae, dispersal, extinction, Middle East, persistence, Sylvioidea, Sylviidae, Timaliidae, vicariance
National Category
Biological Systematics
Research subject
Systematic Zoology
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-71321 (URN)978-91-7447-438-1 (ISBN)
Public defence
2012-03-01, Lilla Hörsalen, Naturhistoriska Riksmuseet, Frescativägen 40, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
At the time of the doctoral defence the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows; Papers 3 and 4: ManuscriptsAvailable from: 2012-02-08 Created: 2012-01-27 Last updated: 2014-10-13Bibliographically approved

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