The phylogeny and classification of the Australo-Papuan Passerine birds
C.G. Sibley and J.E. Ahlquist
85(1) 1 - 14
In a series of studies the technique of DNA-DNA hybridization has been used to compare the single-copy nuclear DNAs of all but three of the ca 70 traditional "families" of the order Passeriformes. The comparisons have included representatives of all of the suprageneric groups of Australo-Papuan passerines recognized by the authors of recent publications.
The DNA data show that the Australo-Papuan oscines (Passeres) consist primarily of an old endemic group, the parvorder Corvi, which began its radiation ca 55-60 million years ago (MYA) and today consists of three superfamilies and ten families. The superfamily Menuroidea includes the Climacteridae, Menuridae, and Ptilonorhynchidae. The Meliphagoidea is composed of the Maluridae, the Meliphaigidae, and the Acanthizidae, and the Corvoidea includes the families Eopsaltriidae, Orthonychidae, Pomatostomidae and Corvidae. Many of the groups previously recognized as "families" are reduced to subfamilies or tribes.
The Corvi apparently originated in Australia and their sister group, the parvorder Muscicapae, may have originated in Africa, although an origin from an Asian ancestor is not ruled out. Since the Corvi are ten-primaried oscines it is clear that they did not diverge from a South American group. The Muscicapae includes all of the oscine groups not members of the Corvi.
As Australia drifted closer to Asia during the late Tertiary, representatives of some of the groups of Corvi dispersed to Asia and radiated there and in other parts of the world. In a reciprocal movement members of the Muscicapae have colonized Australia and New Guinea from Asia.
Full text doi:10.1071/MU9850001
© Royal Australian Ornithologists Union 1985