Proposal (432) to South American Classification Committee


Merge Skutchia borbae into Phlegopsis (Thamnophilidae)


Effect on SACC: This would move the monotypic thamnophilid species Skutchia borbae into Phlegopsis


Background & New information:  Willis (1968) erected the genus Skutchia for Phlegopsis borbae because it was morphologically distinct from other Phlegopsis.  Recently, Aleixo et al. (2009) presented molecular evidence for the phylogenetic position of Skutchia.  They obtained 1403 base pairs of mitochondrial cytb and ND2 from four specimens of Skutchia. These and additional sequence data from Brazilian populations of Phlegopsis erythroptera and P. nigromaculata together were then analyzed with sequence data presented in Brumfield et al.’s (2007) molecular phylogeny of the Thamnophilidae --- Skutchia was the only obligate ant-following genus not included in the Brumfield et al. study.


In Aleixo et al.’s (2009) phylogeny, S. borbae occurred as the sister species to all samples of Phlegopsis nigromaculata (represented were nominate plus P. n. bowmani, P. n. paraensis, P. n. confinis).  This sister relationship had very strong support: maximum-likelihood and parsimony bootstrap support were both 100 and Bayesian posterior probability was 1.0).  The (S. borbae/P. nigromaculata) clade was sister to Phlegopsis erythroptera, also with high support.


The proposal here is to change the genus of Skutchia borbae to Phlegopsis.




ALEIXO, A., T. C. T. BURLAMAQUI, M. P. C. SCHNEIDER, AND E. C. GONÇALVES.  2009.  Molecular systematics and plumage evolution in the monotypic obligate army-ant-following genus Skutchia (Thamnophilidae).  Condor 111: 382-387.


BRUMFIELD, R. T., J. G. TELLO, Z. A. CHEVIRON, M. D. CARLING, N. CROCHET, and R. T. Brumfield. (in press.) Phylogenetic conservatism and antiquity of a tropical specialization: army-ant-following in the typical antbirds (Thamnophilidae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 45:1-13.


WILLIS, E. O. 1968. Taxonomy and behavior of Pale-faced Antbirds. Auk 85:253-264.


Figure from Aleixo et al. (2009) ---





Robb T. Brumfield, April 2010


Addendum from Remsen:  Our Note on the English name of this species is as follows:


62a.  Formerly (e.g., Meyer de Schauensee 1970, Sibley & Monroe 1990, Dickinson 2003) known as "Pale-faced Bare-eye."  Called "Pale-faced Antbird" in Willis (1968), Ridgely & Tudor (1994), and Zimmer & Isler (2003) to emphasize that it does not belong in the genus Phlegopsis.  SACC proposal passed to change English name from "Bare-eye" to "Antbird.”  However, with the finding that Skutchia should be merged into Phlegopsis, the name should be changed back to “Bare-eye.”


I suggest that if the proposal to merge Skutchia into Phlegopsis passes, then the name be changed back to “Bare-eye” without going through a separate proposal.



Comments from Nores: “YES, los análisis moleculares realizados por Aleixo at al. muestran claramente que pertenecen al mismo género. A pesar de que las diferencias morfológicas son grandes, especialmente el parche las plumas elongadas en el lorum (como fue señalado por Willis), el análisis genético muestra que estas características no son tan importantes en el grupo, las cuales aparecen también entre las especies del género Pithys.


Comments from Robbins: “YES.  Aleixo et al.’s (2009) molecular data clearly indicate that Skutchia does not merit recognition.”


Comments from Stotz: “YES.  Genetic data seem clear.  I also agree that we should return to Pale-faced Bare-eye for the species.”