Proposal (321) to South American Classification Committee


Remove Parkerthraustes and Saltator from Cardinalidae


Effect on SACC: This would transfer two genera from Cardinalidae to Incertae Sedis.

Background: SACC classification currently places Parkerthraustes in the Cardinalidae, with the following footnote:


6. Parkerthraustes humeralis was formerly (e.g., Hellmayr 1938, Pinto 1944, Meyer de Schauensee 1970, Paynter 1970c, Ridgely & Tudor 1989, Sibley & Monroe 1990) placed in the genus Caryothraustes; for rationale for generic separation of Parkerthraustes from Caryothraustes, as anticipated by Hellmayr (1938), see Demastes & Remsen (1994) and Remsen (1997). Recent genetic data (Klicka et al. 2007) confirm that Parkerthraustes is not part of Caryothraustes but also that it likely belongs in the Thraupidae. Proposal badly needed.


Thus, this species, once considered congeneric with a true cardinaline (sensu Klicka et al.) not only does not belong in that genus but also in likely a separate family.


The genus Saltator, although itself widely suspected of being polyphyletic, has always been placed with the cardinalines. I do not know what the basis for that was.


New information: Klicka et al.'s (2007) 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. Not only are Saltator and Parkerthraustes not in the Cardinalidae but there is also support for placement within the Thraupidae. The critical node (#2 in their Fig. 1) for that placement has strong support (> 95% Bayesian). That node places Saltator plus Saltatricula as sister to the rest of the tanagers. Saltator rufiventris is not a Saltator but is deeply embedded within the Thraupidae (to be addressed in another proposal). Parkerthraustes is also inside Thraupidae, but support for the nodes, including a relationship to Chlorochrysa, is weak.


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. There is no support for retaining these two genera in Cardinalidae, and I am unaware of whatever rationale was used originally for the placement of Saltator there (and when you look, as in our synoptic series, at the true cardinalines and Saltator, one cannot see any phenotypic signal that suggests a relationship.


For me, the only question is whether to place them within Thraupidae or leave them as Incertae Sedis. Given that their placement in Thraupidae is based on one node and one study (and no nuclear DNA analyzed so far), and given that Burns, Klicka et al. will undoubtedly be publishing more on Thraupidae and Saltator, I suggest a cautious approach by placing them temporarily as Incertae Sedis, including even S. rufiventris, with all appropriate footnotes indicating their likely relationship to Thraupidae. Thus, I recommend a YES vote on their deportation to Incertae Sedis. If someone wants to submit a separate proposal for direct placement in Thraupidae, please do so.




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

[See SACC Literature Cited for others]


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





Comments from Cadena: "YES to moving them out from Cardinalidae, but NO for placing them incertae sedis. I think the data are sufficient to place Parkerthraustes and Saltator in the Thraupidae. Figure 1 in Klicka et al. shows a strongly supported clade that includes the Thraupidae, Saltator, and Parkerthraustes. Unless one wants to create a new family for Saltator, which doesn't appear sensible, the only alternative that is consistent with our current understanding of phylogeny is to treat all the members of the clade as representatives of a single family, Thraupidae. It is important to note that Klicka et al. 2007 state that "our data cannot rule out the hypothesis that they [Saltator] are a sister clade to the Cardinalini", a conclusion based on a non-significant SH test of topologies. This statistical test is known to be conservative, and the other way to look at this is that posterior probability support for a clade formed by Saltator and the Cardinalini is less than 0.05, which means that using a Bayesian criterion, one can reject that hypothesis of relationships. In sum, I think we have enough data to support moving these taxa to the Thraupidae. I concur with Alvaro's recent comment in that we tend to overuse the incertae sedis "rank", and that we should go with the best available phylogenetic evidence."


Comments from Stiles: "YES on transferring these two genera out of Cardinalidae (where I suspect that their massive bills had been the main argument for placing them there). However, I agree with Daniel that current evidence is sufficient for placing them in Thraupidae, probably at the beginning of that family as they are evidently sister to the rest. The lack of sexual dichromatism is also a feature shared with most "true" tanagers but not with most (all?) cardinalines. Like Daniel, I see nothing useful to be gained by either leaving the saltators in "incertae sedis" or erecting a separate family for them."


Comments from Stotz: "YES.  While tempted to move them all the way to Thraupidae, it seems like there is some question as to the specific placement within that family."


Comments from Zimmer: "YES for moving both genera out of Cardinalidae, and into Thraupidae. I find Daniel and Gary's arguments against temporary placement as incertae sedis compelling."


Comments from Robbins: "YES to both removing these from Cardinalidae and placing them in Thraupidae."


Comments from Pacheco: "YES. Igualmente (a #320), a partir das informações apresentadas, sou favorável a remoção destes dois gêneros de Cardinalidae e sua inserção em Thraupidae."