The evolution of avian migration continues to be an intriguing research subject, even though relationships between migration and factors such as seasonality clearly exist. The question remains whether these relationships are evident within phylogenies containing both sedentary and migratory taxa. We explore the evolution of migration in the family Motacillidae by evaluating existing hypotheses for the evolution of migration in a comparative, phylogenetic framework at the interspecific level. Many hypotheses to explain the evolution of avian migration—such as the “evolutionary precursor” hypothesis (Levey and Stiles 1992, Chesser and Levey 1998) and the “stepping-stone” hypothesis (Cox 1968, 1985)—are based on New World migratory systems. The central components of these hypotheses should apply across biogeographic realms (i.e. the Old World), given that seasonality and habitat regimes are similar in the New and Old worlds. Using a molecular phylogeny containing most species in the Motacillidae, we investigated the potential interactions of seasonality and ecology with migratory and sedentary behavior. Our results suggest that habitat and migration are not correlated in the manner predicted by the evolutionary precursor hypothesis, but they also suggest the importance of increasing seasonality in explaining the patterns of the evolution of migration, an expected but previously unexamined evolutionary relationship. While understanding the limitations of applying generalizations to a complex evolutionary system such as migration, we have delineated here a broad methodology for testing hypotheses about the evolution of migration within a phylogenetic context.
Pruebas Filogenéticas de Hipótesis sobre la Evolución de la Migración: Un Estudio de Caso en la Familia Motacillidae