Estrildinae Finches (Aves, Passeriformes) from Africa, South Asia and Australia: a Molecular Phylogeographic Study

Antonio Arnaiz-Villena*, Valentin Ruiz-del-Valle, Pablo Gomez-Prieto, Raquel Reguera, Carlos Parga-Lozano, Ignacio Serrano-Vela
Department of Immunology, University Complutense, The Madrid Regional Blood Center, Madrid, Spain

© 2008 Arnaiz-Villena et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: ( This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Departamento de Inmunologia, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Avenida Complutense s/n, 28040 Madrid, Spain; Tel: +34 913017354; Fax: +34913017356; E-mail:


Estrildid finches are distributed throughout Africa, South Asia, Australia and neighbouring islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Some specific phylogenetic and systematic debated questions have been clarified in the present study by mitochondrial cytochrome b DNA sequencing of 61 species of Estrildids and subsequent analyses of results by both Bayesian Inference and Maximum Likelihood methodologies. Our results support that Estrildids are a monophyletic group with polytomies that may have started evolving by Middle Miocene Epoch (about 16, 5 million years ago). This proposed timing is coincidental with the Fringillinae finches’ radiation starting time and also with the biggest Hymalayan and Tibetan Plateau uplift, triggered by the Indian tectonic plate strongest collision; this established present day southern Asia monsoon regime and other drastic climatic changes, like a dryer weather in Tibetan Plateau and China deserts. The Estrildid finches form a monophyletic group which includes several polytomies and comprises African, Asian and Australian birds. The most ancient evolutive group comprises African (African silverbill), Asian (Indian silverbill) and Australian (diamond firetail); this suggests that the whole Estrildids radiation might have originated around India.More Estrildid species will be studied in order to further establish this group phylogeography. In addition, monophyletic radiations include species from different Continents. Finally, finches is a group separate and basal from Estrildini and Viduini species in our dendrograms.

Keywords: Estrildids, finches, firefinches, grassfinches, munias, mannikins, silverbills, waxbills, weavers, quelea, ploceinae.