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Open Access Research article

Continental phylogeography of an ecologically and morphologically diverse Neotropical songbird, Zonotrichia capensis

Stephen C Lougheed1*, Leonardo Campagna12, José A Dávila3, Pablo L Tubaro2, Darío A Lijtmaer2 and Paul Handford4

Author affiliations

1 Department of Biology, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON, K7L 3N6, Canada

2 División de Ornitología, Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales “Bernardino Rivadavia”, Avenida Ángel Gallardo 470, Ciudad de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, C1405DJR, Argentina

3 Instituto de Investigación en Recursos Cinegéticos, Ronda de Toledo s/n, Cuidad Real, 13005, Spain

4 Department of Biology, University of Western Ontario, London, ON, N6A 5B7, Canada

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Citation and License

BMC Evolutionary Biology 2013, 13:58  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-13-58

Published: 1 March 2013

Abstract

Background

The Neotropics are exceptionally diverse, containing roughly one third of all extant bird species on Earth. This remarkable species richness is thought to be a consequence of processes associated with both Andean orogenesis throughout the Tertiary, and climatic fluctuations during the Quaternary. Phylogeographic studies allow insights into how such events might have influenced evolutionary trajectories of species and ultimately contribute to a better understanding of speciation. Studies on continentally distributed species are of particular interest because different populations of such taxa may show genetic signatures of events that impacted the continent-wide biota. Here we evaluate the genealogical history of one of the world’s most broadly-distributed and polytypic passerines, the rufous-collared sparrow (Zonotrichia capensis).

Results

We obtained control region DNA sequences from 92 Zonotrichia capensis individuals sampled across the species’ range (Central and South America). Six additional molecular markers, both nuclear and mitochondrial, were sequenced for a subset of individuals with divergent control region haplotypes. Median-joining network analysis, and Bayesian and maximum parsimony phylogenetic analyses all recovered three lineages: one spanning Middle America, the Dominican Republic, and north-western South America; one encompassing the Dominican Republic, Roraima (Venezuela) and La Paz (Bolivia) south to Tierra del Fuego, Argentina; and a third, including eastern Argentina and Brazil. Phylogenetic analyses suggest that the Middle American/north-western South American clade is sister to the remaining two. Bayesian and maximum likelihood coalescent simulations used to study lineage demographic history, diversification times, migration rates and population expansion together suggested that diversification of the three lineages occurred rapidly during the Pleistocene, with negligible gene flow, leaving genetic signatures of population expansions.

Conclusions

The Pleistocene history of the rufous-collared sparrow involved extensive range expansion from a probable Central American origin. Its remarkable morphological and behavioral diversity probably represents recent responses to local conditions overlying deeper patterns of lineage diversity, which are themselves produced by isolation and the history of colonization of South America.

Keywords:
Colonization; Demographic expansion; Intraspecific divergence; DNA sequences; Pleistocene; Rufous-collared sparrow