Deep phylogeographic divergence of a migratory passerine in Sino-Himalayan and Siberian forests: the Red-flanked Bluetail (Tarsiger cyanurus) complex

Authors

  • Site Luo,

    1. Guangdong Entomological Institute, South China Institute of Endangered Animals, Guangzhou, China
    2. Institute of Genetic Resources, College of Life Sciences, Nanjing Normal University, Nanjing, China
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    • These authors contributed equally to the study and both should be considered first authors.
  • Yuchun Wu,

    1. Guangdong Entomological Institute, South China Institute of Endangered Animals, Guangzhou, China
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    • These authors contributed equally to the study and both should be considered first authors.
  • Qing Chang,

    1. Institute of Genetic Resources, College of Life Sciences, Nanjing Normal University, Nanjing, China
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  • Yang Liu,

    1. State Key Laboratory of Biocontrol and School of Life Sciences, SunYat-sen University, Guangzhou, China
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  • Xiaojun Yang,

    1. State Key Laboratory of Genetic Resources and Evolution, Kunming Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming, China
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  • Zhengwang Zhang,

    1. Ministry of Education Key Laboratory for Biodiversity Sciences and Ecological Engineering, College of Life Sciences, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China
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  • Min Zhang,

    1. Guangdong Entomological Institute, South China Institute of Endangered Animals, Guangzhou, China
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  • Qiang Zhang,

    1. Guangdong Entomological Institute, South China Institute of Endangered Animals, Guangzhou, China
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  • Fasheng Zou

    Corresponding author
    1. Guangdong Entomological Institute, South China Institute of Endangered Animals, Guangzhou, China
    • Correspondence

      Fasheng Zou, Guangdong Entomological Institute, South China Institute of Endangered Animals, No. 105 Xingang West Road, 510260 Guangzhou, China. Tel: +8620 84182827; Fax: +8620 84183704; E-mail: zoufs@gdei.gd.cn

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Abstract

Enormous mountainous forests in Sino-Himalayans and Siberia harbor important avian biodiversity in the Northern Hemisphere. Numerous studies in last two decades have been contributed to systematics and taxonomy of passerines birds in these regions and have revealed various and complex phylogeographic patterns. A passerine species Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus provided a good system to manifest such evolutionary complexity. The subspecies T. c. cyanurus and T. c. rufilatus (or/and T. c. pallidior), divergent in morphology, acoustics, and migratory strategies are allopatric in Siberia and Sino-Himalayan forests, respectively. The two taxa most likely deserve full species status but rigorous genetic analysis is missing. In this study, multilocus phylogeography based on mitochondrial DNA and Z-linked DNA reveals that T. c. cyanurus and T. c. rufilatus are reciprocally monophyletic with significant statistical support and differ with a large number of diagnostic nucleotide sites resulting substantial genetic divergence. Our finding supports the proposed split of Tarsiger cyanurus s.l. that T. cyanurus and T. rufilatus should be treated as two full species. Whether “pallidior” is a subspecies or geographical form of T. rufilatus is still uncertain. Additionally, these two forest passerine species may have diverged 1.88 (3.25–1.30) Mya, which might be shaped by geographical vicariance due to grassland and desert steppe on the central Loess Plateau during the Pliocene. Taken together, this study and further suggests another independent example of North Palearctic–Sino-Himalayan phylogeographic pattern in Palearctic birds.

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