Proposal (732) to South American Classification Committee


Recognize new family Pipritidae for Piprites



Effect on SACC classification: This would recognize a new family-level category for species in the genus Piprites, which are currently the only species in the Incertae Sedis category in the suboscines.


Background: From SACC notes:


12. The relationships of the genus Piprites have been controversial. Traditionally (e.g., Hellmayr 1929, Pinto 1944, Phelps & Phelps 1950a, Meyer de Schauensee 1970, Snow 1979c) placed in the Pipridae, Ames (1971) suggested that it belonged in the Tyrannidae and was closely related to the genus Myiobius. Prum (1990) was unable to place it within either the Pipridae or Cotingidae.  Genetic data have been equivocal concerning its relationships.  Prum et al. (2000) were unable to place it within any existing family.  Ericson et al. (2006), Ohlson et al. (2008), and Prum et al. (2015) found that it was sister to a limited sample of genera in the Tyrannidae.  Barber & Rice (2007) showed that it was not a member of the Tityridae and was sister to the Tyrannidae genera sampled.  Tello et al. (2009) found genetic support for its placement in the Tyrannidae, as a member of the group that includes the “flatbills” and other genera.  Ohlson et al. (2013) found that it was sister to all lineages in the Tyrannidae and proposed family rank for Piprites, and this was followed by Dickinson & Christidis (2014). SACC proposal needed.


Analysis and Recommendation: After our recent removal of Phibalura and Calyptura from the Incertae Sedis category in the suboscines, that category contains only Piprites.  Ohlson et al. (2013) formally established Pipritidae as a group name and recommended recognition at the family rank.  Given that there is no evidence for placement in any existing family and that it is likely as old a lineage as any in the Tyrannoidea, I see no reason not to follow this classification.  Furthermore, it is technically not Incertae Sedis with respect to its placement in the suboscines: data are converging on a sister relationship to Tyrannidae.


An alternative classification would be to place it in the Tyrannidae, because that is consistent with most genetic data so far.  However, recent recommendations for ranking several of the major divisions within the Tyrannidae at the family level (e.g. Tello et al. 2009, Ohlson et al. 2013, Dickinson & Christidis 2014), if adopted, would make such a treatment unjustifiable.  Furthermore, it is clear that Piprites is a very old and distinctive lineage that, in my opinion, merits a taxon rank comparable to Tyrannidae.



Van Remsen, November 2016





Comments from Claramunt: “NO. Phylogenetic information is still ambiguous. Piprites could be either sister to Tyrannidae (Ohlson et al. nuclear introns) or nested within it (Tello et al. RAG exon).  Erecting a new family for Piprites is compatible with only one of these possibilities.  The monophyly of Tyrannidae would not be warranted.  I prefer to include Piprites in Tyrannidae, a solution that is more conservative and is compatible with all phylogenetic alternatives so far.  Therefore, I vote NO to this proposal and will submit a new proposal for including Piprites into Tyrannidae if this proposal does not pass.”


Comments from Robbins: "For now, I vote “NO” for erecting a new family for Piprites.  I find Santiago’s comments to be consistent with the data that have been published."


Comments from Areta: “A mild YES. I think that we need to reconsider what the Tyrannidae are, given phylogenetic knowledge on the deep splits within this traditional and humongous family. Regardless of uncertainties on its precise phylogenetic relationships as expressed by Santiago, Piprites has always been problematic to place, and the three species are distinctive in vocalizations, morphology and behavior.  I cannot consider the three Piprites as tyrants if tyrant is to have a more precise meaning (I also want to note that within-Piprites divergences are very deep). This takes us to the issue of whether to recognize Platyrinchidae, Tachurididae, Rhynchociclidae and Tyrannidae (sensu stricto) or to keep all these taxa within the Tyrannidae.”


Comments from Stiles: “YES. I agree with Nacho that while not unequivocal, the most recent and detailed genetic data do support  this alternative. Certainly the behavior and vocalizations of the two species of Piprites that I know are quite distinct from those of all Tyrannidae in my experience.”


Comments from Pacheco: “YES. From direct experience, I consider Piprites sufficiently divergent to accept for the moment the proposition of a family apart for this genus. Faced with the many suggestions to subdivide this large group, I align myself to Nacho in asking if we are going to reassess the recognition of more families in the Suborder Tyranni.”


Comments from Stotz: “NO. I have to agree with Santiago on this.  We may eventually treat this as a separate family, but I think it is premature to do that without reassessing the possibility of splitting up Tyrannidae into a number of families.”


Comments from Cadena: “NO, for reasons noted by Santiago. I hear the comments by others on the heterogeneity of the Tyrannidae, the distinctiveness of Piprites, and the need to reconsider what the Tyrannidae are. These would all be quite valid points if we had an objective definition of what a family is, which we don’t have – families are simply monophyletic groups that include mophyletic gropus ranked as genera and which are nested within monophyletic groups ranked as orders. I thus think that any proposals to change classification at this level must begin with showing that (1) genera, families or orders are not monophyletic or (2) that the placement of problematic taxa has been definitively resolved and moving them around does not cause problems with monophyly of other groups. Given uncertainties noted by Santiago, in this case the evidence for neither of these points appears conclusive. I would thus favor retaining Piprites as incertae sedis until more data are available (I suspect that UCE-based phylogenies of suboscine are close to being published).”


Comments from Zimmer: “Put me down as a reluctant NO”.  I think the three species of Piprites form a vocally, behaviorally and morphologically cohesive group that is worthy of recognition at the Family level.  But I am ultimately persuaded by Daniel & Santiago’s arguments (particularly as regards Daniel’s point #2) that the phylogenetic information is still incomplete with respect to whether Piprites is sister to Tyrannidae or nested within it, and that we should be sure that by moving Piprites around, that we do not create problems concerning the monophyly of other groups.  By using Tyrannidae as a ‘placeholder’ for Piprites, we can preserve the distinctiveness of Piprites as an internally cohesive distinctive group, next to its presumed closest relatives, until such time as we can sort out what to do with recognizing the other various deep divisions within this huge family.  Many of these types of decisions on whether to recognize a distinctive, monophyletic group at the Genus or Family level come down to taste, and I would personally lean towards recognizing Piprites at the familial level.  But, if we continue to maintain Pittasoma as a genus within Conopophaga, then I can live with Piprites being considered Tyrants, at least until we get a better handle on the phylogenetic relationships within this mega-diverse group.”


Comments from Jaramillo: “YES.  Particularly swayed by Nacho on this “on the fence” topic for me. Although creating a new family is a big deal, in this case my concern with that weight is lessened by the consideration that Tyrannidae itself may require an overhaul. This overhaul is unlikely to include Piprites within one of the subgroups that will come out of it.”