Proposal (#272) to South American Classification Committee

Sequence of genera and subfamilies in Furnariidae

Effect on South American CL: This would change slightly the sequence of genera in the Furnariidae and divide the family into three subfamilies.

Background: In a previous proposal (#132 -- see for details), we merged the family Dendrocolaptidae into the Furnariidae but placed the dendrocolaptids last in the sequence without any subfamily designations. The main reason for doing this was that independent data sets (Irestedt et al. 2002, 2006, Chesser 2004) indicated that the old Furnariidae was a paraphyletic family with respect to Dendrocolaptidae because Geositta and Sclerurus are basal to all other ovenbirds + woodcreepers.

Analysis and Proposal: The data sets above, although limited in their taxon sampling, yielded strong support for three major lineages within a broadly defined Furnariidae: (1) Sclerurus + Geositta; (2) remaining furnariids, and (3) traditional dendrocolaptids. Chesser (2004) analyzed beta fibrinogen (a nuclear gene) sequences and found strong support in both maximum parsimony and maximum likelihood analyses for the groupings above. Fjeldaå et al. (2005) and Irestedt et al. (2006) analyzed both mitochondrial and nuclear gene (myoglobin, not b-fib) sequences, with similar strong support for the three groups, except that the furnariid genus Xenops fell within the dendrocolaptids in two of their three analyses. However, an analysis of a combined dataset of ca. 6000 bp indicates that Xenops is basal in the Furnariinae and is not a dendrocolaptine (R. Brumfield, pers. comm.).

For our classification to reflect these phylogenetic data, I propose that we recognize the three major groups as subfamilies: Sclerurinae (Sclerurus was described before Geositta), Furnariinae, and Dendrocolaptinae. The latter two names are used by some earlier classifications that considered the two dendrocolaptids are members of the Furnariidae.

Our linear sequence can stay intact except that Sclerurus should be moved to the front. Because of the uncertainty of the position of Xenops, I suggest that we leave it in Furnariinae until additional analyses are published, but place it last ... thus next to Dendrocolaptinae in the linear sequence. Thus the structure would look like this:





(all other furnariid genera as is but with Xenops moved to the end)


(all dendrocolaptid genera)


Recommendation: Although additional taxon and gene sampling may alter the position of some genera, especially Xenops, this sequence reflects data from two independent analyses and seems unlikely to change substantively. So, I recommend a YES on this one.


CHESSER, R. T. 2004b. Molecular systematics of New World suboscine birds. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 32: 11-24.

FJELDSÅ, J., M. IRESTEDT, AND P. G. P. ERICSON. 2005. Molecular data reveal some major adaptational shifts in the early evolution of the most diverse avian family, the Furnariidae. J. Ornithology 146: 1-13.

IRESTEDT, M., J. FJELDSÅ, AND P. G. P. ERICSON. 2006. Evolution of the ovenbird-woodcreeper assemblage (Aves: Furnariidae) - major shifts in nest architecture and adaptive radiation. J. Avian Biology 37: 260-272.

IRESTEDT, M., J. FJELDSÅ, U. S. JOHANSSON, AND P. G. P. ERICSON. 2002. Systematic relationships and biogeography of the tracheophone suboscines (Aves : Passeriformes). Molecular Phylogenetics & Evolution 23: 499-512.

Van Remsen, May 2007



Comments from Stiles: "YES.  I am not unhappy with Sclerurinae - if you paint a Geositta brown you have a leaftosser.  The differences in color and habits of these two genera seem like obvious adaptations to different habitats that the birds occupied on opposite sides of the Andes as these were uplifted.. I rather suspect that the "original" color scheme was Sclerurus-like and these birds simply stuck to their lowland forest floors and did not climb far into the nascent Andes, while the miners did and wound up on the other side (such speculations aside, I see no problems with this proposal)."

Comments from Robbins: "YES. Based on the published data this proposal seems quite logical and is well supported."

Comments from Zimmer: "YES. Additional taxon sampling may lead to refinements, but on the currently available data, this arrangement seems to make the most sense."

Comments from Nores: "SI, aunque yo no estoy tan convencido como Gary de que pintar una Geositta de marrón uno tiene un Sclerurus. A mi, como a la mayoría de los autores que han visto el tema, no se me hubiera ocurrido nunca que Geositta y Sclerurus estuvieran emparentados. Tanto es así, que en todos los trabajos previos, Geositta está al comienzo de Furnariidae y Sclerurus al último. No obstante, ante la evidencia molecular (si está bien hecha) no queda otra posibilidad que aceptar la relación entre ambos géneros."

Comments from Jaramillo: "YES - I agree with Manuel on Geositta being a bit more than pale Sclerurus, I would have bet $$ that they were sister to Upucerthia! But then again, I have been wrong sooo many times before. But to the point of this proposal, I do think the new arrangement is a good one, consistent with the best available data."

Comments from Stotz: "YES. I was not happy with our previous decision not to accord woodcreepers subfamilial rank, so I am glad to see them back, although I will be interested to see if Sclerurinae holds up over time."