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The infraorder Furnariides is a diverse group of suboscine passerine birds comprising a substantial component of the Neotropical avifauna. The included species encompass a broad array of morphologies and behaviours, making them appealing for evolutionary studies, but the size of the group (ca. 600 species) has limited well-sampled higher-level phylogenetic studies. Using DNA sequence data from the nuclear RAG-1 and RAG-2 exons, we undertook a phylogenetic analysis of the Furnariides sampling 124 (more than 88%) of the genera. Basal relationships among family-level taxa differed depending on phylogenetic method, but all topologies had little nodal support, mirroring the results from earlier studies in which discerning relationships at the base of the radiation was also difficult. In contrast, branch support for family-rank taxa and for many relationships within those clades was generally high. Our results support the Melanopareidae and Grallariidae as distinct from the Rhinocryptidae and Formicariidae, respectively. Within the Furnariides our data contradict some recent phylogenetic hypotheses and suggest that further study is needed to resolve these discrepancies. Of the few genera represented by multiple species, several were not monophyletic, indicating that additional systematic work remains within furnariine families and must include dense taxon sampling. We use this study as a basis for proposing a new phylogenetic classification for the group and in the process erect new family-group names for clades having high branch support across methods. © 2009 The Willi Hennig Society.

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