The systematics of the babblers (Timaliidae) and related members of the Old World insectivorous passerines have been particularly difficult. To clarify our understanding of this group, phylogenetic relationships were constructed using sequences of three mitochondrial genes (cytochrome b, rRNA 12S and 16S). The results indicated that several species traditionally placed among babblers, the shrike babblers (Pteruthius) and the Gray-chested Thrush Babbler (Kakamega poliothorax), are not related to the Timaliidae, but belong to other passerine groups. Furthermore, the phylogenetic hypotheses inferred from molecular data suggest that the babblers assemblage includes two other oscine taxa traditionally considered to be distantly related, Sylvia (Sylviidae) and Zosterops (Zosteropidae). The polyphyly of several babbler genera is discussed, with particular attention to the laughingthrushes (genera Garrulax and Babax) for which the phylogeny is compared to previous hypotheses of relationships. Results from different tests under the maximum-parsimony and maximum-likelihood criteria indicate the rejection of the hypothesis of monophyly for the laughingthrushes group. Thus, the molecular phylogeny challenges the traditional classification of the Timaliidae.
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Vol. 120 • No. 1