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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2019 Oct;139:106568. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2019.106568. Epub 2019 Jul 23.

Genome-wide evidence supports mitochondrial relationships and pervasive parallel phenotypic evolution in open-habitat chats.

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Naturhistorisches Museum der Burgergemeinde Bern, Bernastrasse 15, CH-3005 Bern, Switzerland.
Evolutionary Biology, Department of Biology II, Ludwig Maximilians University Munich, Biozentrum Martinsried, D-82152 Martinsried, Germany.
Department of Biology, Faculty of Sciences & Research Department of Zoological Innovation (RDZI), Institute of Applied Zoology, Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Mashhad, Iran.
Department of Ecosystem Monitoring, Research and Conservation, Black Forest National Park, D-72250 Freudenstadt, Germany.
c/o Ausserdorfstrasse 6, CH-8052 Zürich, Switzerland.
Science for Life Laboratory, Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Stockholm University, SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden.
Science for Life Laboratory, Department of Biosciences and Nutrition, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.
Department of Population Ecology, Institute of Ecology and Evolution, Friedrich Schiller University Jena, D-07743 Jena, Germany.
Department of Ecology and Genetics, Evolutionary Biology Centre, Uppsala University, SE-75236 Uppsala, Sweden.
Department of Population Ecology, Institute of Ecology and Evolution, Friedrich Schiller University Jena, D-07743 Jena, Germany. Electronic address:


In wheatears and related species ('open-habitat chats'), molecular phylogenetics has led to a comprehensively revised understanding of species relationships and species diversity. Phylogenetic analyses have suggested that, in many cases, phenotypic similarities do not reflect species' relationships, revealing traditionally defined genera as non-monophyletic. This led to the suggestion of pervasive parallel evolution of open-habitat chats' plumage coloration and ecological phenotypes. However, to date, the molecular evidence for the phylogenetic relationships among open-habitat chats is mainly limited to mitochondrial DNA. Here, we assessed whether the mitochondrial relationships are supported by genome-wide data. To this end, we reconstructed the species tree among 14 open-habitat chat taxa using multi-species coalescent analyses based on ~1'300 SNPs. Our results confirm previous ones based chiefly on mitochondrial DNA; notably the paraphyly of the Oenanthe lugens complex and the clustering of individual species formerly placed in the genera Cercomela and Myrmecocichla within Oenanthe. Since several variable morphological and ecological characteristics occur in multiple places across the open-habitat chat phylogeny, our study consolidates the evidence for pervasive parallel evolution in the plumage coloration and ecology of open-habitat chats.


Molecular phylogeny; Oenanthe; Parallel evolution; Saxicolinae; Species tree; Taxonomy

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