The importance of suboscine birds as study systems in ecology and evolution

Joseph A. Tobias, University of Oxford
Jeff D. Brawn, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Robb T. Brumfield, Louisiana State University
Elizabeth P. Derryberry, Louisiana State University
Alexander N.G. Kirschel, University of Oxford
Nathalie Seddon, University of Oxford


© The Neotropical Ornithological Society. Suboscine passerine birds are one of the most prominent components of Neotropical avifaunas, yet they remain relatively poorly studied in comparison with their sister-clade, the oscine passerines. This situation appears to be changing rapidly as more ornithologists realize that suboscine birds offer ideal study systems for investigating a variety of research questions. We summarise a symposium focused on studies of tracheophone suboscines (woodcreepers, ovenbirds, antbirds and allies) and highlight recent advances in our understanding of their history and behavior. We argue that because of their antiquity and high levels of diversity, they make excellent subjects for comparative analyses and phylogenetic models. Moreover, several details of their breeding and signaling systems predispose them to field-based observational and experimental studies of social interactions and signal evolution, as well as automated techniques for vocal recognition. We discuss potential new avenues of research on suboscine passerines, and conclude that they are likely to play an increasingly important role as study systems in tropical ecology and evolutionary biology.