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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2008 Jul;48(1):136-49. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2008.01.013. Epub 2008 Jan 24.

Phylogeny, biogeography and taxonomy of the African wattle-eyes (Aves: Passeriformes: Platysteiridae).

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  • 1Department of Biology, Boston University, 5 Cummington Street, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


The African wattle-eyes (genera Platysteira and Dyaphorophyia) comprise 10 species endemic to Africa. We analyzed both mitochondrial and nuclear DNA sequence data to test the monophyly of this group and its two genera, provide a preliminary assessment of species limits, and gain insight into the phylogeographic history of the wattle-eye radiation. Analyses based on mitochondrial ND2 sequences failed to recover wattle-eye monophyly, but the alternatives were not well-supported. In contrast, analyses of two nuclear introns (myoglobin intron-2 and beta-fibrinogen intron-5) recovered wattle-eye monophyly, as did combined analyses of mitochondrial and nuclear data. These analyses, however, did not support reciprocal monophyly of the two wattle-eye genera typically recognized, suggesting instead that Platysteira is nested within a paraphyletic Dyaphorophyia. The diversification of most wattle-eye species and many subspecies occurred through the divergence of allopatric populations well before the Pleistocene. Species and subspecies with disjunct distributions are typically characterized by deep genetic divergences, suggesting that many of these populations are evolutionary independent and could be recognized as additional phylogenetic species. In D. castanea and D. chalybea, for example, divergent haplotypes from geographically disjunct populations were paraphyletic with respect to those of D. tonsa and D. jamesoni, respectively. Similarly, Platysteira laticincta is highly divergent from its sister taxon P. peltata ( approximately 9.5% ND2 sequence divergence), consistent with species level recognition of this endangered species. In contrast, more broadly distributed taxa inhabiting a greater diversity of habitats (e.g., P. peltata and P. cyannea) show evidence of gene flow and connectivity among regions, suggesting that previously isolated populations expanded and fused into one another. Our study provides a framework for additional analyses of intraspecific phylogeography and species limits in these colorful birds.

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