Evolutionary history of a prominent North American warbler clade: The Oporornis–Geothlypis complex

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Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution







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The avian genera Oporornis and Geothlypis are thought to represent a single lineage of closely related New World wood-warbler (AOU Family Parulidae) species. Phylogenetic relationships within this assemblage have not yet been addressed using molecular genetic methods. We used sequence data from three mitochondrial (mtDNA) genes (cytochrome b, ND2, and control region) to reconstruct an hypothesis of relationships for this group. Our ingroup sampling included 34 individuals representing all currently recognized Oporornis (4 spp.) and Geothlypis (9 spp.) species. Our results indicate that Geothlypis is paraphyletic with respect to Oporornis formosus. The four members of Oporornis do not form a clade but instead comprise a grade at the base of the Oporornis–Geothlypis topology. Two species within Geothlypis are polyphyletic. The Costa Rican form of G. aequinoctialis is embedded within the Neotropical G. semiflava complex, and the widespread North American form G. trichas consists of at least two groups, each having a closer affinity to other Geothlypis species than with each other. Five Geothlypis species differ from one another on average by about 2% uncorrected (cytochrome b) divergence, indicating a rapid and recent radiation within this genus. Our phylogenetic hypothesis for this assemblage indicates that morphological characters such as size and plumage brightness that have traditionally defined relationships with Geothlypis are not concordant with molecular data. Most members of Geothlypis are sedentary whereas all members of Oporornis are long-distance Nearctic migrants. Our topology suggests that Geothlypis is derived from a migrant, Oporornis-like ancestor that ceased migration and established itself as a sedentary breeding population in the Neotropics. We speculate that an ecological switch from forested to more open habitats at this time led to range expansion and diversification in this new lineage.


Evolutionary genetics; Geothlypis; Molecular genetics; Oporonis; Wood Warbler


Evolution | Molecular Genetics | Ornithology




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DOI: http://ezproxy.library.unlv.edu/login?url=http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ympev.2009.07.014