Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

The Auk


The American Ornithologists' Union





First page number:


Last page number:



We sequenced the complete mitochondrial cytochrome-b gene (1,143 nucleotides) for representatives of each species in the cardinalid genera Passerina (6 species), Guiraca (1 species), and Cyanocompsa (3 species), and used a variety of phylogenetic methods to address relationships within and among genera. We determined that Passerina, as presently recognized, is paraphyletic. Lazuli Bunting (P. amoena) is sister to the much larger Blue Grosbeak (Guiraca caerulea). Indigo Bunting (P. cyanea) and Lazuli Bunting are not sister taxa as generally thought. In all weighted parsimony trees and for the gamma-corrected HKY tree, Indigo Bunting is the sister of two sister groups, a “blue” (Lazuli Bunting and Blue Grosbeak) and a “painted” (Rosita's Bunting [P. rositae], Orange-breasted Bunting [P. leclancherii], Varied Bunting [P. versicolor], and Painted Bunting [P. ciris]) clade. The latter two species form a highly supported sister pair of relatively more recent origin. Uncorrected (p) distances for ingroup (Passerina and Guiraca) taxa range from 3.0% (P. versicolorP. ciris) to 7.6% (P. cyaneaP. leclancherii) and average 6.5% overall. Assuming a molecular clock, a bunting “radiation” between 4.1 and 7.3 Mya yielded four lineages. This timing is consistent with fossil evidence and coincides with a late-Miocene cooling during which a variety of western grassland habitats evolved. A reduction in size at that time may have allowed buntings to exploit that new food resource (grass seeds). We speculate that the Blue Grosbeak subsequently gained large size and widespread distribution as a result of ecological character displacement.


Buntings (Birds); Cladistic analysis; Molecular genetics; Passerina; Phylogeny


Molecular Genetics | Ornithology | Population Biology




Published in The Auk 118(3):611-623. © 2001 by the Regents of the University of California/American Ornithologists’ Union. Copying and permissions notice: Authorization to copy this content beyond fair use (as specified in Sections 107 and 108 of the U. S. Copyright Law) for internal or personal use, or the internal or personal use of specific clients, is granted by [the Regents of the University of California/on behalf of the Sponsoring Society] for libraries and other users, provided that they are registered with and pay the specified fee via Rightslink® on [JSTOR (] or directly with the Copyright Clearance Center,