Songbirds are the most species-rich and widely distributed bird group, comprising almost half of global avian diversity. Songbirds originated in Australia, but the evolutionary trajectory from a single species in an isolated continent to worldwide proliferation is poorly understood. Using the first comprehensive genome-scale DNA sequence data set for songbirds, fossil-based time calibrations, and geologically informed biogeographic reconstructions we provide a well-supported evolutionary hypothesis for the group. We show that songbird diversification began in the Oligocene and accelerated during the Miocene, at approximately half the age of most previous estimates. This burst of diversification occurred coincident with extensive island formation in Wallacea, which provided the first dispersal corridor out of Australia, and resulted in independent waves of songbird expansion through Asia to the rest of the globe. Our results reconcile songbird evolution with Earth history and link a major radiation of terrestrial biodiversity to early diversification within an isolated Australian continent.
Carl obtained his Bachelor's degree in Mathematics at De La Salle University in Manila. After working for two years as a software analyst and then as a bank trader, he volunteered in conservation and research projects in the Philippines. This work included surveying humpback whales and setting up an NGO to conserve a flightless bird species endemic to a tiny island in the northern Philippines. He went on to earn his Master's and Doctoral degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Kansas. He is currently a Postdoctoral Researcher at LSU working on projects in avian systematics and biogeography.
Postdoctoral Researcher, Dept of Biological Sciences, Louisiana State University