Target enrichment of thousands of ultraconserved elements sheds new light on early relationships within New World sparrows (Aves: Passerellidae)
Sparrows in the nine-primaried oscine family Passerellidae represent an attractive model for studying avian diversification across North and South America. However, the lack of phylogenetic resolution at the base of the New World sparrow tree has hampered the use of the existing sparrow phylogeny to test questions about the evolution of sparrow traits. We generated phylogenomic data from 1,063 ultraconserved elements to estimate phylogenetic relationships among the major clades of New World sparrows. Concatenated and species tree analyses of 271,830 base-pairs of sequence data converged on a well-supported phylogeny that differs from previous estimates. The resolved backbone of the sparrow phylogeny provides new insight into the biogeography of this radiation by suggesting both a tumultuous biogeographic history with many colonizations of South America, as well as several independent ecological transitions to different habitat types.