Copyright 2020 Cicero et al. The New World sparrows (Passerellidae) are a large, diverse group of songbirds that vary in morphology, behavior, and ecology. Thus, they are excellent for studying trait evolution in a phylogenetic framework. We examined lability versus conservatism in morphological and behavioral traits in two related clades of sparrows (Aimophila, Peucaea), and assessed whether habitat has played an important role in trait evolution. We first inferred a multi-locus phylogeny which we used to reconstruct ancestral states, and then quantified phylogenetic signal among morphological and behavioral traits in these clades and in New World sparrows more broadly. Behavioral traits have a stronger phylogenetic signal than morphological traits. Specifically, vocal duets and song structure are the most highly conserved traits, and nesting behavior appears to be maintained within clades. Furthermore, we found a strong correlation between open habitat and unpatterned plumage, complex song, and ground nesting. However, even within lineages that share the same habitat type, species vary in nesting, plumage pattern, song complexity, and duetting. Our findings highlight trade-offs between behavior, morphology, and ecology in sparrow diversification.
Publication Source (Journal or Book title)
Cicero, C., Mason, N., Benedict, L., & Rising, J. (2020). Behavioral, morphological, and ecological trait evolution in two clades of New World Sparrows (Aimophila and Peucaea, Passerellidae). PeerJ, 2020 (6) https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.9249