Date Published:March 1, 2012
We explored the efficacy of species tree methods at the family level in birds, using the Australo-Papuan Fairy-wrens (Passeriformes: Maluridae) as a model system. Fairy-wrens of the genus Malurus are known for high intensities of sexual selection, resulting in some cases in rapid speciation. This history suggests that incomplete lineage sorting (ILS) of neutrally evolving loci could be substantial, a situation that could compromise traditional methods of combining loci in phylogenetic analysis. Using 18 molecular markers (5 anonymous loci, 7 exons, 5 introns, and 1 mitochondrial DNA locus), we show that gene tree monophyly across species could be rejected for 16 of 18 loci, suggesting substantial ILS at the family level in these birds. Using the software Concaterpillar, we also detect three statistically distinct clusters of gene trees among the 18 loci. Despite substantial variation in gene trees, species trees constructed using four different species tree estimation methods (BEST, BUCKy, and STAR) were generally well supported and similar to each other and to the concatenation tree, with a few mild discordances at nodes that could be explained by rapid and recent speciation events. By contrast, minimizing deep coalescences produced a species tree that was topologically more divergent from those of the other methods as measured by multidimensional scaling of trees. Additionally, gene and species trees were topologically more similar in the BEST analysis, presumably because of the species tree prior employed in BEST which appropriately assumes that gene trees are correlated with each other and with the species tree. Among the 18 loci, we also discovered 102 independent indel markers, which also proved phylogenetically informative, primarily among genera, and displayed a ‚àº4-fold bias towards deletions. As suggested in earlier work, the grasswrens (Amytornis) are sister to the rest of the family and the emu-wrens (Stipiturus) are sister to fairy-wrens (Malurus, Clytomyias). Our study shows that ILS is common at the family level in birds yet, despite this, species tree methods converge on broadly similar results for this family.