Proposal (319) to South American Classification Committee


Transfer Granatellus to Cardinalidae


Effect on SACC: This would transfer a genus that we have already excised from Parulidae and placed in Incertae Sedis to the Cardinalidae.


Background: SACC classification has already removed Granatellus, with the following footnote:


33. Recent genetic data (Lovette & Bermingham 2002) show that the genus Granatellus is not a member of the Parulidae (but true relationships uncertain, perhaps closest to Cardinalidae); Lowery & Monroe (1968) suspected that it did not belong in the Parulidae, and Meyer de Schauensee (1966) suspected that it belonged in the Thraupidae. Storer (1970a) suspected that plumage similarities between Granatellus and Rhodinocichla suggested a close relationship between the two. Genetic data (Klicka et al. 2007) indicate strong support for placement in the Cardinalidae. Proposal badly needed.


Thus, we had already removed Granatellus from Parulidae, where it had been traditionally placed, but with much reservation.


New information: Klicka et al. (2007) with broader taxon-sampling, including all three Granatellus (2 extralimital to SACC). confirmed what Lovette & Bermingham (2002) had suspected from their analyses. Klicka et al.'s analysis included 102 genera of tanagers, emberizines, and cardinalines. The genetic sampling consisted of 2281 bp of two mitochondrial genes, ND2 and cyt-b ... a nice sample.


The critical node (#1 in their Fig. 1) that places Granatellus within a group that also consists of Piranga, Habia, Chlorothraupis, Cardinalis, Caryothraustes, Periporphyrus, Rhodothraupis, Pheucticus, Cyanocompsa, Amaurospiza, Cyanoloxia, Passerina, and Spiza has strong support (100% Bayesian, 78% MP bootstrap, 92% ML bootstrap); see the MS and Proposal 318 or additional details.


Analysis and Recommendation: mtDNA is widely considered a reliable predictor of phylogeny at these levels of taxonomy, and certainly these data sets represent the first truly scientific estimates of the phylogeny and classification of this group. Two independent data sets now place Granatellus within this group. There are no contrary data, and Granatellus has been placed within Parulidae in the past largely on the basis of its small body size and bill ... in other words, there are essentially no scientific data for its placement in Parulidae or any other family.


Klicka et al.'s phylogeny placed Granatellus sister to a monophyletic group that consists of the "blue" cardinalines (Passerina, Cyanocompsa etc.) +Spiza. Sister to the Granatellus + Blue group, is Pheucticus, and as Klicka et al. noted, Granatellus shares red and black plumage with Pheucticus ludovicianus. Relationships among Pheucticus, Granatellus, and the Blue group are weakly defined, however, and the possibility remains that Pheucticus and Granatellus could be sisters. Our current linear sequence will need to be modified to group, at least until those deeper nodes are better-resolved, Pheucticus, Granatellus, and the Blue group. Thus, placement in our current sequence will be only temporary; placing Granatellus after Pheucticus (if this proposal passes) is perhaps the best temporary solution.


I recommend a YES vote on this one -- for the first time, data rather than general impressions can be used to place Granatellus in a phylogenetic classification.



KLICKA, J., K. BURNS, AND G. M. SPELLMAN. 2007. Defining a monophyletic Cardinalini: A molecular perspective. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 45: 1014­1032.

LOVETTE, I. J., AND E. BERMINGHAM. 2002. What is a wood-warbler? Molecular characterization of a monophyletic Parulidae. Auk 119: 695-714.


Van Remsen (in consultation with Kevin Burns and John Klicka), December 2007





Comments from Stiles: "YES. Again, the change is clearly mandated by the genetic data - they were decidedly odd "warblers" in any case, and "chat" is a sufficiently nonspecific English name that I see no need to tinker with it!"


Comments from Stotz: "YES. Always a weird warbler, good to get clear placement somewhere."


Comments from Zimmer: "YES. Independent data sets strongly support the change, with an absence of any conflicting data. As an aside, I've always thought there was a Passerina-like quality and pattern to calls and songs of the various Granatellus species, so Klicka et al.'s findings regarding the relationships of the "blue group" to Granatellus makes sense from the standpoint of vocal characters as well."


Comments from Robbins: "YES, there is strong genetic support for placing Granatellus within the Cardinalidae. Although this genus always seemed out of place within the Parulidae, I would never have guessed that it was in a clade with Piranga, Habia, et al."


Comments from Pacheco: "YES. Os resultados convergentes apresentados por dados oriundos de trabalhos genéticos recentes confirmam de maneira mandatória a suspeita iniciada nos anos 1960's."