in Uva, Päckert, Cibois, et al., 2018.
• Tytonidae originated in the Oligocene (ca. 28 mya) of Australasia.
• Tytonidae underwent six trans-continental radiations in the Pleistocene.
• Split of Tyto alba into three species (T. alba, T. furcata, T. javanica) is supported.
• T. rosenbergii and T. nigrobrunnea are subspecies of T. javanica; T. sororcula and T. manusi are subspecies of T. novaehollandiae.
• Grass owls and sooty owls are a single species each (T. capensis and T. tenebricosa).
The owl family Tytonidae comprises two genera: Phodilus, limited to the forests of central Africa and South-East Asia, and the ubiquitous Tyto. The genus Tyto is majorly represented by the cosmopolitan Common Barn Owl group, with more than 30 subspecies worldwide. Discrete differences in body size and plumage colouration have led to the classification of this family into many species and subspecies, but the taxonomic status and phylogenetic relationships between taxa remain unclear, and in some groups controversial. Although several previous studies attempted to resolve this problem, they have been limited in their taxonomic and geographical coverage, or have relied on restricted molecular evidence and low sample sizes. Based on the most comprehensive sampling to date (16 out of 17 Tyto species, and one out of three Phodilus species), a multi-locus approach using seven mitochondrial and two nuclear markers, and taking advantage of field data and museum collections available worldwide, our main questions in this study were: (1) what are the phylogenetic relationships and classification status of the whole family; (2) when and where did the most important speciation events occur? We confirm that the Common Barn Owl, Tyto alba is divided into three main evolutionary units: the American Barn Owl, T. furcata; the Western Barn Owl, T. alba; and the Eastern Barn Owl, T. javanica, and suggest a Late Miocene (ca. 6 mya) Australasian and African origin of the group. Our results are supported by fossil age information, given that the most recent common ancestor between the Tytonidae genera Phodilus and Tyto was probably from the Oligocene (ca. 28 mya) of Australasia. We finally reveal six major Pleistocene radiations of Tyto, all resulting in wide-range distributions.
Keywords: Bird, Strigiformes, Molecular phylogenetics, Taxonomical classifications
Vera Uva, Martin Päckert, Alice Cibois, Luca Fumagalli and Alexandre Roulin. 2018. Comprehensive Molecular Phylogeny of Barn Owls and Relatives (Family: Tytonidae), and Their Six Major Pleistocene Radiations. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 125; 127-137. DOI: 10.1016/j.ympev.2018.03.013