Not so Little Shrike-thrush

Subject: Not so Little Shrike-thrush
From: Phil Gregory <>
Date: Sat, 10 Mar 2018 11:38:30 +1000
Resending with typos fixed, how I hate autocorrect!
The latest review of the complex systematics of Little Shrike-thrush confirms 
what some of us have long thought, that the pale NT and WA birds are Arafura 
Shrike-thrush, and the rusty east coast birds are Rufous Shrike-thrush ( 
long-established Clements name of course). You also get 5 more from New Guinea, 
so hope you kept track of where you saw them there…..I went into some detail 
about this coming break-up in my New Guinea and Bismarcks Field Guide, it is 
great to finally see it more or less worked out. Now for Island Thrush, 
Olive-backed Sunbird, Zitting Cisticola and Spangled Drongo, all long overdue 
for revision.

Petter Z. Marki, Jon Fjeldså, Martin Irestedt, Knud A. Jønsson. Molecular 
phylogenetics and species limits in a cryptically coloured radiation of 
Australo-Papuan passerine birds (Pachycephalidae: Colluricincla). Molecular 
Phylogenetics and Evolution, In Press, Accepted Manuscript, Available online 8 
March 2018


Detailed knowledge of species limits is an essential component of the study of 
biodiversity. Although accurate species delimitation usually requires detailed 
knowledge of both genetic and phenotypic variation, such variation may be 
limited or unavailable for some groups. In this study, we reconstruct a 
molecular phylogeny for all currently recognized species and subspecies of 
Australasian shrikethrushes (Colluricincla), including the first sequences of 
the poorly known C. tenebrosa. Using a novel method for species delimitation, 
the multi-rate Poisson Tree Process (mPTP), in concordance with the 
phylogenetic data, we estimate species limits in this genetically diverse, but 
phenotypically subtly differentiated complex of birds. In line with previous 
studies, we find that one species, the little shrikethrush (C. megarhyncha) is 
characterized by deep divergences among populations. Delimitation results 
suggest that these clades represent distinct species and we consequently 
propose a new classification. Furthermore, our findings suggest that C. 
megarhyncha melanorhyncha of Biak Island does not belong in this genus, but is 
nested within the whistlers (Pachycephala) as sister to P. phaionota. This 
study represents a useful example of species delimitation when phenotypic 
variation is limited or poorly defined.

Proposed species-level taxonomy of C. megarhyncha:

C. megarhyncha (megarhyncha, batantae, parvula) - Arafura Shrikethrush
C. tappenbecki (tappenbecki, madaraszi, maeandrina) - Sepik-Ramu Shrikethrush
C. rufogaster (rufogaster, aelptes, gouldii, griseata, normani, synaptica) - 
Rufous Shrikethrush
C. discolor (monotypic) - Tagula Shrikethrush
C. obscura (obscura, idenburgi) - Mamberamo Shrikethrush
C. affinis (monotypic) - Waigeo Shrikethrush
C. fortis (fortis, despecta, neos, superflua) - Variable Shrikethrush


Phil Gregory
ornithological writer/tour leader/tour facilitator
Field Guides / Sicklebill Safaris / Cassowary House / Cassowary Tours
PO Box 387
QLD 4881

Ph: +61 7 40 937 318

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