Resolving deep lineage divergences in core corvoid passerine birds supports a proto-Papuan island origin

It is well established that the global expansion of songbirds (Oscines) originated in East Gondwana (present day Australo-Papua), and it has been postulated that one of the main constituent groups, the "core Corvoidea", with more than 750 species, originated in the first islands that emerged where New Guinea is now located. However, several polytomous relationships remained within the clade, obstructing detailed biogeographical interpretations. This study presents a well-resolved family-level phylogeny, based on a dataset of 22 nuclear loci and using a suite of partitioning schemes and Maximum Likelihood and Bayesian inference methods. Resolving the relationships within the core Corvoidea provides evidence for three well-supported main clades, which are in turn sister to the New Zealand genus Mohoua. Some monotypic lineages, which have previously been considered Incertae sedis, are also placed in a phylogenetic context. The well-resolved phylogeny provides a robust framework for biogeographical analyses, and provides further support for the hypothesis that core corvoids originated in the proto-Papuan island region that emerged north of Australia in the late Oligocene/early Miocene. Thus, the core Corvoidea appear to represent a true island radiation, which successfully colonized all continents except Antarctica.