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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2004 Oct;33(1):186-96.

Genetic variation coincides with geographic structure in the common bush-tanager (Chlorospingus ophthalmicus) complex from Mexico.

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Max Planck Research Centre for Ornithology (Vogelwarte Radolfzell) Schlossalleé 2, D-78315 Radolfzell, Germany.


Cloud forests are distributed in the Neotropics, from northern Mexico to Argentina, under very specific ecological conditions, namely slopes with high humidity input from clouds and mist. Its distribution in Mesoamerica is highly fragmented, similar to an archipelago, and taxa are thus frequently represented as sets of isolated populations, each restricted to particular mountain ranges and often showing a high degree of divergence, both morphologically and genetically. The common bush-tanager (Chlorospingus ophthalmicus, Aves: Thraupidae) inhabits cloud forests from eastern and southern Mexico south to northwestern Argentina. Here we use 676bp of mtDNA (around the ATPase 8 gene) to explore the genetic variation and phylogeographic structure of the Mexican populations of C. ophthalmicus. Phylogenetic analyses of mtDNA sequences indicate deep genetic structure. Five major clades, which segregate according to geographic breaks, are identified (starting from the deepest one in the phylogeny): (1) Southern Chiapas and Northern Central America, (2) Tuxtlas massif, (3) Sierra Madre del Sur, (4) Eastern Oaxaca and Northern Chiapas, and (5) Sierra Madre Oriental. The long history of isolation undergone by each clade, as suggested by the phylogeny, implies that the species status of each of them should be revised.

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