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Population structure and biogeography of Hemiphaga pigeons (Aves: Columbidae) on islands in the New Zealand region

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Abstract Aim 

The New Zealand avifauna includes lineages that lack close relatives elsewhere and have low diversity, characteristics sometimes ascribed to long geographic isolation. However, extinction at the population and species levels could yield the same pattern. A prominent example is the ecologically important pigeon genus Hemiphaga. In this study, we examined the population structure and phylogeography of Hemiphaga across islands in the region. Location 

New Zealand, Chatham Islands and Norfolk Island. Methods 

Mitochondrial DNA was sequenced for all species of the genus Hemiphaga. Sixty-seven individuals from mainland New Zealand (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae novaeseelandiae), six of the Chatham Islands sister species (Hemiphaga chathamensis), and three of the extinct Norfolk Island subspecies (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae spadicea) were included in this study. Novel D-loop and cytochrome b primers were designed to amplify DNA from museum samples. Additionally, five other mitochondrial genes were used to examine placement of the phylogenetic root. Results 

Analyses of mitochondrial DNA sequences revealed three Hemiphaga clades, consistent with the allopatric populations of recognized (sub)species on oceanic islands. Of the 23 D-loop haplotypes among 67 New Zealand pigeons (Hemiphaga n.┬ánovaeseelandiae), 19 haplotypes were singletons and one haplotype was common and widespread. Population genetic diversity was shallow within and between New Zealand populations, indicating range expansion with high inter-population exchange. Tentative rooting of the Hemiphaga clade with cyt b data indicates exchange between mainland New Zealand and the Chatham Islands prior to colonization of Norfolk Island. We found low genetic divergence between populations on New Zealand, the Chatham Islands and Norfolk Island, but deep phylogenetic divergence from the closest living relatives of Hemiphaga. Main conclusions 

The data are consistent with the hypothesis of population reduction during the Pleistocene and subsequent expansion from forest refugia. Observed mobility of Hemiphaga when feeding helps explain the shallow diversity among populations on islands separated by many hundreds of kilometres of ocean. Together with comparison of distribution patterns observed among birds of the New Zealand region, these data suggest that endemicity might represent not long occupancy of an area, but descent from geologically recent colonizations. We consider the role of lineage pruning in creating the impression of old endemicity.

Keywords: Chatham Islands; Hemiphaga; New Zealand; Norfolk Island; dispersal; mitochondrial DNA; phylogeography; population structure

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Ecology Group, Institute of Natural Resources, Massey University, Private Bag 11-222, Palmerston North, New Zealand 2: Science & Research Unit, Department of Conservation, PO Box 10420, Wellington, New Zealand

Publication date: 2011-02-01

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