Proposal (276) to South American Classification Committee


Transfer the genus Paroaria to the Thraupidae


Effect on SACC: This would move Paroaria from Emberizidae to Thraupidae.


Background & New information: Here's what we have in the Notes at our SACC website:


"The genus Paroaria has been placed traditionally in the Emberizidae, sometimes with the cardinal grosbeaks (e.g., Hellmayr 1938, Meyer de Schauensee 1966, 1970), which in this classification are considered a separate family, Cardinalidae. Tordoff (1954) concluded that it was not a cardinaline but an emberizine genus, based on <> skeletal data. Genetic data indicate that the genus Paroaria belongs in the Thraupidae (Yuri & Mindell 2002, Burns and Naoki 2004), as suspected long ago by Paynter (1970a)."


Yuri and Mindell (2002) analyzed about 3200 base-pairs of at least four mitochondrial gene regions and found that Paroaria was embedded in their very limited group of tanagers including Tangara and Buthraupis. Their analysis of a cyt-b sequences for a much larger set of taxa fond that Paroaria was embedded in tanagers, and clustered with Cissopis, Schistochlamys, and Neothraupis, but with low support. Burns & Naoki (2004) analyzed DNA sequences of about 1475 base pairs of two mitochondrial genes. They found that Paroaria (P. coronata) was deeply embedded within core tanagers, with 100% Bayesian support for a group that includes it, Neothraupis, Cissopis, and Schistochlamys, and 98% Bayesian support for the inclusion of that group within a much larger group of genera that includes Thraupis, the type genus for the family.


Paroaria has always been recognized as enigmatic. The bright spectral red coloration is unlike that of any other members of the traditional Emberizidae other than Rhodospingus and Coryphospingus, themselves also probably tanagers. Unlike the latter, however, Paroaria has bright monomorphic plumage, something unknown in true Emberizidae or Cardinalidae (except perhaps for Piranga rubriceps), but a routine plumage theme in true tanagers.


Analysis and Recommendation: With the impending dismantling of Emberizidae and likely transfer of many genera to Thraupidae, we could simply wait until additional genetic data appear from the labs of Burns, Klicka, and colleagues. The reason to go ahead with this one is that we have two independent data sets that already say the same thing, namely definitely within core Thraupidae and definitely not within core Emberizidae. Maintaining it in Emberizidae does not reflect current knowledge of its relationships, so I favor moving forward with a YES on this one.



BURNS, K. J., AND K. NAOKI. 2004. Molecular phylogenetics and biogeography of Neotropical tanagers in the genus Tangara. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 32: 838-854.

YURI, T., & D. P. MINDELL. 2002. Molecular phylogenetic analysis of Fringillidae, "New World nine-primaried oscines" (Aves: Passeriformes). Molecular Phylogenetics & Evolution 23: 229-243.


Van Remsen, May 2007





Comments solicited from Kevin Burns: "Thanks for asking for my input.  I think this is a great idea.  Our current data set (almost all species, plus 4 nuclear genes) is supporting what we found with just one species and mtDNA so there is no danger of this being overturned."


Comments from Stiles: "YES. Paroaria is definitely thraupine, not emberizine (or cardinaline?)."


Comments from Robbins: "YES. The existing published data coupled with Kevin Burns's comments convince me that Paroaria be included in the Thraupidae (whatever the definition of that family is these days)."


Comments from Nores: "NO.  Aunque los dos trabajos moleculares citados incluyen a Paroaria dentro de Thraupidae, muestran también muchas incongruencias en otros géneros, lo que hace dudar de la veracidad de los análisis. Por ejemplo, Yuri y Mindell (2002) incluyen a Tiaris y Geospiza dentro de Thraupidae, mientras que Burns y Naoki (2004) lo ponen en un grupo separado. También en Burns y Naoki (2004) aparece Tiaris olivacea junto con Coereba flaveola separada de Tiaris bicolor que forma un clado con Geospiza fortis.  Además, Yuri y Mindell (2002) ponen a Paroaria junto a Buthraupis, mientras que Burns y Naoki (2004) lo ponen en distintos clades.


"En adición, otros aspectos (especialmente marcados en Paroaria coronata) los diferencia claramente de Thraupidae: el aspecto (pronunciado copete), el canto (estructurado y melodioso) y el comportamiento (bastante terrícola).


"Nota: Yo quiero aquí llamar la atención en relación a las propuestas basadas en análisis moleculares. Me parece que, si uno acepta un análisis dado, debe aceptar todo lo que tenga buen soporte y no sólo parte, por lo que la propuesta debería incluir todas las especies que han sido reubicadas. Por ejemplo, si una propuesta estaría basada en el análisis de Yuri y Mindell (2002:A), la propuesta debería ser algo así:


a) Transferir ParoariaGeospizaTiaris Coryphospingus a Thraupidae.

b) Transferir Piranga a Cardinalini.
c) Transferir Chlorospingus a Emberizinae.
d) Transferir Euphonia a Fringillinae,


y no sólo Paroaria to Thraupidae."


Comments from Stotz: "YES. Paroaria has always seemed out of place in Emberizidae and the evidence for it in Thraupidae seems clear. As far as the other changes that Manuel points to that would also come out of Yuri and Mindell, we have already moved Euphonia to Fringillidae, and all of the other genera are placed as incertae sedis, basically because incomplete taxon sampling meant that some key genera had not been sampled. That taxon sampling has now been completed, and the results presented at the latest AOU meeting. As that material is published, we will be able to finish moving these genera among families. All of the changes that Manuel notes have been supported by further work. There will be more complex decisions regarding definitions of genera, because most of the large tanager and "finch" genera are not monophyletic, but I think the family level switches will be pretty straightforward."


Comments from Jaramillo: "YES - To me this is clearly a thraupid, although what is a thraupid and what is an emberizid is changing all the time. There will be many other emberizid genera shifted to Thraupidae in time, as this happens, this change won't seem as isolated and out of place as perhaps Manuel sees it. But the issue with this one is that it is supported by separate data sets. I do agree with Manuel, we should shift some of those other genera as well, but those are separate proposals to be written (i.e. Piranga)."


Comments from Pacheco: "YES. Penso que a transferência por ser corroborada por duas análises independentes deve ser implementada. Junto-me a Nores e acho igualmente apropriado avaliar a transferência dos demais gêneros implicados no trabalho de Yuri & Mindell."