Sapayoa aenigma: a New World representative of 'Old World suboscines'

Jon Fjeldså, Dario Zuccon, Martin Irestedt, Ulf S. Johansson, Per G. P. Ericson

Abstract

Passerine birds are very plastic in their adaptations, which has made it difficult to define phylogenetic lineages and correctly allocate all species to these. Sapayoa aenigma, a member of the large group of New World flycatchers, has been difficult to place, and DNA-DNA hybridization experiments have indicated that it may have been misplaced. This is confirmed here, as base sequencing of two nuclear genes places it as a deep branch in the group of broadbills and pittas of the Old World tropics. The peculiar distribution of this lineage may be best explained in terms of a Gondwanic and Late Cretaceous origin of the passerine birds, as this particular lineage dispersed from the Antarctic landmass, reaching the Old World tropics via the drifting Indian plate, and South America via the West Antarctic Peninsula.