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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2003 Oct;29(1):43-57.

A phylogenetic analysis of the emberizid sparrows based on three mitochondrial genes.

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  • 1Department of Biology, San Francisco State University, 1600 Holloway Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94132, USA.


Previous molecular phylogenetic studies have examined the taxonomic relationships among a number of typical emberizid sparrow genera. To help clarify these relationships, we sequenced a 1673 base pair fragment for the complete sequence of three mitochondrial genes: adenosine triphosphatase (Atp8 and Atp6) and cytochrome oxidase subunit III (COIII) for 38 sparrow species, along with Passerina amoena (Cardinalidae) and Piranga ludoviciana (Thraupidae) which were selected as the outgroups. Our analysis confirms the monophyly of traditional genera such as Junco, Melospiza, and Zonotrichia. Although Calcarius and Plectrophenax are often thought to be putative emberizids, all our analyses placed these genera basal to all other sparrows examined. As observed with Calcarius, Spizella did not form a monophyletic group, with S. arborea being the sister-taxon to Passerella iliaca. Our analyses also suggest that Aimophila ruficeps is probably more closely related to the "brown towhees" (Pipilo aberti, P. crissalis, and P. fuscus) than its putative congeners. The genus Ammodramus was also not monophyletic, since it appears that Passerculus sandwichensis is more closely related to A. henslowii and A. leconteii then either one is related to its congener A. savannarum. Finally, our analyses exhibited other unsuspected associations, such as the sister-taxon relationships between Amphispiza bilineata and the Chondestes grammacus/Calamospiza melanocorys clade, and Amphispiza belli and Pooecetes gramineus.

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