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Are the Northern Andes a species pump for Neotropical birds? Phylogenetics and biogeography of a clade of Neotropical tanagers (Aves: Thraupini)

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Abstract Aim 

We used mitochondrial DNA sequence data to reconstruct the phylogeny of a large clade of tanagers (Aves: Thraupini). We used the phylogeny of this Neotropical bird group to identify areas of vicariance, reconstruct ancestral zoogeographical areas and elevational distributions, and to investigate the correspondence of geological events to speciation events. Location 

The species investigated are found in 18 of the 22 zoogeographical regions of South America, Central America and the Caribbean islands; therefore, we were able to use the phylogeny to address the biogeographical history of the entire region. Methods 

Molecular sequence data were gathered from two mitochondrial markers (cytochrome b and ND2) and analysed using Bayesian and maximum-likelihood approaches. Dispersal–vicariance analysis (DIVA) was used to reconstruct zoogeographical areas and elevational distributions. A Bayesian framework was also used to address changes in elevation during the evolutionary history of the group. Results 

Our phylogeny was similar to previous tanager phylogenies constructed using fewer species; however, we identified three genera that are not monophyletic and uncovered high levels of sequence divergence within some species. DIVA identified early diverging nodes as having a Northern Andean distribution, and the most recent common ancestor of the species included in this study occurred at high elevations. Most speciation events occurred either within highland areas or within lowland areas, with few exchanges occurring between the highlands and lowlands. The Northern Andes has been a source for lineages in other regions, with more dispersals out of this area relative to dispersals into this area. Most of the dispersals out of the Northern Andes were dispersals into the Central Andes; however, a few key dispersal events were identified out of the Andes and into other zoogeographical regions. Main conclusions 

The timing of diversification of these tanagers correlates well with the main uplift of the Northern Andes, with the highest rate of speciation occurring during this timeframe. Central American tanagers included in this study originated from South American lineages, and the timing of their dispersal into Central America coincides with or post-dates the completion of the Panamanian isthmus.
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Keywords: Andes; Neotropics; Tangara; Thraupis; biogeography; birds; dispersal–vicariance analysis; molecular phylogeny; mtDNA; tanager taxonomy

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 February 2010

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