Near-complete phylogeny and taxonomic revision of the world’s babblers (Aves: Passeriformes)

The babblers are a diverse group of passerine birds comprising 452 species. The group was long regarded as a “scrap basket” in taxonomic classification schemes. Although several studies have assessed the phylogenetic relationships for subsets of babblers during the past two decades, a comprehensive phylogeny of this group has been lacking. In this study, we used five mitochondrial and seven nuclear loci to generate a dated phylogeny for babblers. This phylogeny includes 402 species (ca. 89% of the overall clade) from 75 genera (97%) and all five currently recognized families, providing a robust basis for taxonomic revision. Our phylogeny supports seven major clades and reveals several non-monophyletic genera. Divergence time estimates indicate that the seven major clades diverged around the same time (18–20 million years ago, Ma) in the early Miocene. We use the phylogeny in a consistent way to propose a new taxonomy, with seven families and 64 genera of babblers, and a new linear sequence of names.